Kenyan wine tasters beat Italy, Scotland, and Sweden in a blind-tasting wine competition held on Saturday in France.
“We were number 26, one position after the US team. We beat Italy which has participated many times [and ranked as one of the top wine-producing countries in the world with a rich wine-drinking culture],” said Victoria Mulu-Munywoki, the team leader of TeamWineKenya.
For the first time, the all-five-female team represented Kenya in a Wine Olympics which attracted 31 countries, most with a long history of grape-growing, and with vineyards dating as far as the 17th century.
Wine tasters from Luxembourg, a tiny country with an equally tiny wine region and best known for its white wines, won the World Blind Tasting Championship. It was followed by Portugal and Spain.
In Africa, the Zimbabwe wine-tasting team which has participated in the competition since 2017 led at number 20, followed by South Africa at number 21.
Some of the lessons they picked, Victoria says, is that the teams that did their best train together throughout the year, unlike Kenya which started training a few months into the competition, alone and with little sponsorship.
“They get to experience all types and styles of wine from various parts of the world. The competition presented 12 wines from nine countries. We could have done better getting more French wines correct. The competition had five French wines. We also missed marks on the only sweet wines,” she says.
“However as underdogs and first-timers, TeamWineKenya had nothing to lose but everything to gain,” she adds.
The Kenya team comprised Joy Ochola, Soraiya Ladak, one of the directors of The Wine Shop in Nairobi, Melissa Mwende, a 27-year-old sommelier, Victoria, a celebrated sommelier who has refined the wine-drinking culture in Kenya and Beverly Mbaika, who has been in the wine industry for nine years.
The women found a few sponsors and crowdfunded to attend the competition at the Ayala Champagne house in France. “Our wine importers were pivotal as they gave us free wines for the practise sessions, enabling us beat Italians,” Victoria adds.