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Are you Manitoba's best wine taster?

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Have a nose for discerning certain grapes in a wine? Is your palate is pretty fine-tuned to where a wine comes from and when it was made? Not sure, and want to put your senses to the test? Think you've got what it takes to taste wine with (or like) the pros? Then the First Annual Manitoba Wine-Tasting Championships should be right up your alley.

The event is being put on by (and staged at) The Winehouse (1600 Kenaston Blvd.) and begins today, with preliminary rounds running into early March. Contestants are given 40 minutes to taste five wines blind — ie. pre-poured in a glass and without any knowledge of its origins.

A possible 10 points can be earned per wine: three for the correct grape variety/ varieties, three for country of origin, three for region of origin, and one for vintage. The top eight highest-scoring tasters move on to the live final round on Friday, March 15.

Prizes! Oh yes, there are prizes. The winner of the live final gets a wine fridge as well as a dinner for eight (with wine) at The Winehouse valued at $1,000... pretty sweet. (All of the final eight tasters will get prizes, as it happens.) To register, visit www.ticoswinehouse.com and click on the Manitoba Wine Tasting Championships link, pick a date and then email it to info@ticoswinehouse.com.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I registered, and am set to put my palate to the test next Wednesday at 8 p.m. This kind of wine tasting is both remarkably educational and incredibly fun: It doesn't cost anything and hey, you get to taste five wines for free. Scores also aren't made public in case you were wondering about the embarrassment factor (I know I was).

While there has certainly been interest from those in the wine industry on the trade side, it's on the general public side of things where the Manitoba Wine Tasting Championships has been generating some buzz as of late. I think those outside of the wine biz have a better chance of winning a contest like this than they might think. There's a Facebook page dedicated to the event that's worth checking out too.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this grow into something like Ontario's Wine Tasting Challenge, where there are separate "Professional" and "Amateur" categories. I think for the first year, The Winehouse was simply eager to get the Manitoba tastings up and running, see how things go, and tweak for future years.

As an interesting aside, Manitoba Liquor Marts have long held an internal tasting championship among their Product Consultants and Product Ambassadors. Former Brandonite (and current Winnipeg Product Ambassador) Kathy Boultbee apparently has the palate to beat, as she's won many of the recent tastings.

***

I got word this past weekend that Paul Speck of Ontario's Henry of Pelham and Speck Bros. wines will be in town and pouring wine on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at the Grant Park Liquor Mart. Pop by and chat with one of the nicest guys in the Canadian wine industry, taste some of his wines, and check out the recently revamped Grant Park Liquor Mart.

Later this week: tasting notes on a few new local brews... 

uncorked@mts.net

Twitter: @bensigurdson 

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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