Last Monday was a sommelier throw down as industry professionals from all around Chicago competed in a blind wine tasting. The event was held at the legendary RPM Steakhouse and hosted by Star Chefs. Our Chicago wine director, Rachel Driver Speckan competed in the tasting bringing her A game. Everyone was seated in a private room with the first four glasses of white wine waiting to be tasted. As soon as the directions were given the atmosphere in the room went from pleasant conversation and laughter to quiet and serious. The only noises in the room were the sounds of glasses swirling and the sipping of wine. Everyone was silent as they ruminated on what the varietal, region, and vintage of each wine could be. Once time was called discussion and debate filled the room. Some of the competitors felt confident they knew exactly what each wine was while some were completely perplexed. The common descriptors amongst everyone were bright and acidic.
The next round of wines were four reds and the same process of swirl, sniff, sip were repeated. These wines were bold, tannic, and chewy and seemed to share many of the same characteristics. Rachel instantly knew from the first sip that these wines were from Spain. As everyone used their intensively trained palettes to decipher the flavors and textures they were experiencing, the mysteries of the wine unfolded. After people described what they thought each wine was, it was time for the moment of truth! Both wines were from Spain, the whites from Rueda and the reds from Ribera. The grapes for the reds were all Tempranillo and the whites were Verdejo. The regions came together for the “Si what’s next” collaborative campaign, aimed at bringing delicious and accessible wines to Millennials. Overall, the participants had a great time and were happy to brush up on their skills, awaiting the next competition.