I’m trying to think of something more pretentious than a group of students from America’s top business and law schools, competing at the French Consulate on New York’s Upper East Side, to determine who has the best knowledge of — and palate for — Bordeaux’s premier Left Bank wines. I am having a hard time.
That said, I had the opportunity to participate in this competition a couple of weeks ago during the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup, hosted by the Commanderie du Bontemps. It was really fun, really difficult, and really humbling. And I felt extremely lucky to do it all. Pictures from the event — along with some sample questions — are at the bottom of this post.
The competition is an annual affair, originally started in 2002, and is intended to promote awareness of and appreciation for Bordeaux wines from the Left Bank. This year, teams of three competed from schools such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School (our team!), Chicago Booth, Yale Law School, Yale Business School, Wharton, and Kellogg.
To prepare, our group — Matt Daniel, Chris Larson, Blythe Pollack, and myself — worked with the Upper West Side shop Martin Brothers to procure various bottles of classified left Bank Bordeaux and practiced tasting them blind. We would pour three wines at a time and challenge ourselves to place them in order from youngest to oldest. We’d then attempt to guess the region.
I’m getting graphite and lots of plum, perhaps it’s a Pauillac?
This one has a lot of austerity and is a little closed on the nose, lots of black fruit on the palate… St Estéphe, maybe?
Super brambly? I’ll go with Pessac!
Violets, definitely violets… definitely Margaux. Right?
During practice, we surprised ourselves and got a lot of guesses right. We also got a lot of guesses wrong. It was a toss-up whether we’d perform well at the competition. In the midst of all this, we vociferously read Bordeaux books, memorized chateaux, and crammed French facts in our heads.
When the day finally arrived, we aced the trivia portion, getting nine out of ten questions correct. Unfortunately, we didn’t fare so well on the tasting — we bombed the tasting and lost the competition. Lesson learned: Bordeaux is extremely challenging and I need to drink more of it.
We’ll be cheering on the Yale Law School team when they enter the final round of the global competition this June in France!
Left Bank Bordeaux Cup 2013: Multiple Choice
1) Who is the patron saint of wine growers?
a. St. Julien
b. St. Vincent
c. St. Jacques
2) The 2013 Fete de la Fleur will take place where?
3) How many classified growths exist in St. Estephe?
4) Only one of these growths is classified, which one is it?
a. Le Mission Haut-Brion white
b. Laville Haut-Brion white
c. Haut-Brion white
5) One of these is not a first growth classified Barsac, which one is it?
6) Which river delineates the Medoc area?
7) Who is the oldest family owning a classified growth in Medoc?
8) Which artist created the label for Mouton-Rothschild 2010?
a. Anish Kapoor
b. Jeff Koons
c. Xu Lei
9) Mr. Robert Parker is a tenured commander:
10) Which Medoc growth has a boat as an emblem?