Drinking for grades
The popularity of fine wines is growing quickly in China but it's not just the rich and mature drinkers who know how to savor this alcoholic beverage - the students do too
Of the various private events that took place across the seven ballrooms at Park Hyatt Shanghai, one stood out the most.
Instead of the regular dinner party, business meeting or conference, this event was more akin to an examination, one that was attended by 30 college students.
The presence of high foot wine glasses in the ballroom, however, suggested that this was no regular examination. In fact, this was the final round of the Chinese edition of the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup, one of the world's most prestigious and participated wine contests for college students whom the organizers called the "world's future elites".
The wine exam comprised a multiple-choice test on Bordeaux's history and wine trivia. What followed was a blind tasting of a variety of wines that even the most professional sommeliers might find difficult to handle. Huddled in teams of three, the students swirled, sniffed and sipped fine Bordeaux before identifying the wines. They also had to determine the name of a Chateau from a photo, the year a vintage wine was made and its appellation.
"Considering Chinese students' remarkable ability to memorize, we have designed the questions particularly for the Chinese mainland tests. Some of them are so difficult that even I cannot answer them," said Fan Lina, the only Chinese member of the wine appreciation guild and judge on the panel this year.
First introduced in 2002 by Commanderie du Bontemps de Mdoc, des Graves, de Sauternes et de Barsac, one of the most historical and biggest French wine appreciation guilds, the contest was a national event for wine societies in French schools before it was opened up to the world in 2011. The contest has since been won by teams of wine connoisseurs, or oenophiles, from Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard. The event was introduced to China, currently the world's fifth largest wine market, at the beginning of 2014.