Dallas men, an attorney and a sommelier, win U.S. Open wine tasting championship

U.S. Open wine tastingU.S. Open wine tasting winners will lead U.S. team at world championships in France

This year, the winning team at the U.S. Open wine tasting championships scored 101 points. That’s one more point than the U.S. team scored in the 2016 world championships, when it finished a best-ever third.

So does this mean Dallas residents Taylor Robertson and Jacob Fergus, the winning team, have discovered the secret to blind tasting?

Not exactly.

“To be honest, we weren’t sure how we did when we saw the wines,” says Robertson, 34, a Dallas attorney who worked in the restaurant business before going to law school — but who never lost his appreciation for wine. “The wines this year were much more difficult than last year, and we were worried about how we did.”

This year’s wines included a South African chenin blanc, a Portuguese touriga nacional, and a French white grenache – hardly the sort of thing you’ll see on most wine lists.

But no need to worry, apparently. Tournament director John Viljus called their performance a very strong one, and is optimistic about the U.S. team’s chances at the 2019 world event this October in France. Belgium won the 2018 world competition, followed by Finland and France. Robertson and Fergus will be joined by Gwendolyn Alley and Sue Hill, who finished second in thee U.S. competition with 92 points.

Last weekend, a dozen two-person teams blind tasted six red and six white wines, getting points for correctly identifying the wine’s producer, its varietal, vintage, and region. They had just eight minutes to taste each wine, something Robertson says presented one of the tournament’s biggest challenges. At some point, tasting fatigue sets in, and it becomes more difficult to tell which wine is which.

They key to winning, says Fergus, who works at Savor Gastropub at Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, was understanding the difference between the U.S, Open tasting format, which is more open ended, and the way blind tasting works for wine certification programs like master sommelier, which focuses on identifying specific wines.

And as for the world competition?

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” says Fergus. And why not, with a score like that?

 

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