Cornell Cuvée Wins First Place in Blind Tasting Competitions in Switzerland and France

Members of Cornell Cuvée, the University’s wine teaching and blind tasting society, returned from their trips to Europe earlier this summer with two first-place finishes in tasting competitions at the blind.

A team of Cuvée students won first place at the EHL Millésime competition in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 3, and another group of Cuvée students won first place at the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup in Bordeaux. , in France, on June 10. In addition to the tastings, the competitions included examinations and thematic presentations on the wines.

At the start of the 2022 spring semester, several Cuvée students also attended and participated in the Sciences Po International Tasting (SPIT) competition in Ay, France. Professor Cheryl Stanley ’00, the Cuvée’s educational advisor, accompanied the Cuvée teams to the three competition sites.

This is not the first time that the Cuvée has come out on top in these competitions.

Warner Hazell ’17 MBA ’22, who participated in Millésime this spring, was a member of the Cuvée team that won the SPIT blind wine tasting competition in Reims, France, in 2017, when he was an undergraduate student at the School of Hotel Administration. He said that while he felt some pressure after competing at a high level, he felt confident in his team’s preparation.

“It was fantastic to have another opportunity to represent Cornell on the international stage,” Hazell said. “Having been there before, I tried to take the opportunity to mentally train my teammates for some of the different challenges of competing overseas.”

Kate Wang ’22, a recent graduate of the Nolan School of Hotel Administration, said that in the March 16 qualifier for the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup, her team faced eight schools across North America, including Yale Law School, the NYU Stern School of Business and UCLA Anderson School of Management. Cuvée was the only team with undergraduate students.

“Honestly, we were more than happy to make the final – that was our goal for qualifying,” Wang said. “Before us…Cornell only made the final once.”

Wang noted that the team was able to advance to the final at Chateau Lafite Rothschild after winning first place in the virtual qualifying round.

According to Lukas Bredo Gundersen grad, a member of the Left Bank Bordeaux team alongside Wang, the team practices for the competitions consisted of a combination of wine theory studies and blind tasting of wines from different regions of the world, including almost 100 different wines from different regions of the left bank. and vintages.

Jake Rallo ’22, captain of Cuvée, said team dynamics were crucial to Cuvée’s accuracy in identifying the specific producer, vintage or region of a particular wine.

“When you connect people who all know different wine regions or different parts of the world in terms of wine regions and allow the teams to operate as one brain, that’s where the real magic happens,” Rallo said, who attended the Millésime. competition, noting that it would be much more difficult for him to “call” this or that wine on its own.

Another important part of preparing for the competition is increasing students’ “paddle mileage”, something Stanley played an important role in during the preparations.

“To taste these wines and have our own sensory perception – to make each person feel comfortable with wine, feel comfortable talking about wine and also become confident in their own knowledge of wine … [—] is just one more step in their journey with wine,” said Stanley.

For students like Rallo, Wang, Gundersen and Hazell, Stanley’s dedication, training and commitment to the team is behind much of Cuvée’s success.

“Because we formed a relationship over the past 4 years, I really wanted to make it happen for her,” Rallo said. “I don’t think people understand how much time Mrs. Stanley is investing in Cuvée to enable us to be successful…I wanted to do this for Mrs. Stanley because she does so much for us.”

Gundersen also credited Glycine Juang, Ph.D. in yeast biology at the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with helping the team organize specialist practices in preparation for the Coupe Bordeaux Rive Gauche.

“Glycine knows Bordeaux wines very well because she spent several years as a winemaker in Bordeaux before coming to Cornell,” Gundersen said. “She was an integral part of us winning the semi-finals as well as the final.”

The club also continues to succeed with its unique membership structure. The Cuvée is made up of Tier I and Tier II members. Level I members, who are mostly juniors, can smell the wine during practices but do not participate in tastings. These members study by listening to descriptions of wine flavors provided by Tier II members, who are primarily senior and graduate students and may participate in blind tasting.

For Tier I members, experience is still important.

“I think the most important thing is to sit with people who actually taste the wines while you smell the wine and learn from their experiences,” Rallo said.

Level I members also sometimes choose to take additional training. Cuvée Tier I member William Melancon ’23 said he and many other members worked in the wine industry over the summer.

Membership tiers allow the club to train members earlier, improving the quality of their competing members, which makes Stanley optimistic about the club’s competitive future.

“Because we have Tier I members who have built their confidence and foundational knowledge, they’re going to fuel into next year,” Stanley said. “I think we’ll have a very strong team next year because they’ve seen training and learned the same wine – they’re going to hear some of that information a second time. By the time they go to compete they’ll have three semesters complete to their credit in working with wine.

Rallo noted the importance of sharing information and knowledge among all Level I and Level II students involved in the success of Cuvée.

“Everyone comes to Cuvée with a different background, whether you are in CALS and studying food science or have lived abroad and studied in France, so you are more of an expert in French wines. …or whether you come from the restaurant business like me,” Rallo said. “When we bring them together as an organization, it’s really powerful.”

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