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The Palate 2012

The inaugural edition of The Palate saw a staggering 5,000 people enter our fun and innovative competition



As if being awarded the prestigious title of "The Palate 2013" wasn't enough, our winner will also receive a luxury trip of a lifetime… A ten day wine holiday for two in Australia and New Zealand, courtesy of Robert Oatley and Giesen Wines. This will include flights, 3 days in Sydney, 2 days on the stunning paradise of Hamilton Island (owned by Robert Oatley), 3 days in Auckland and 2 days in Blenheim (including a visit to the Giesen Winery, lunch and a wine tasting). Want more? OK then, we'll throw in £1000 of spending money. Now that's a prize! But it doesn't stop there…

The Contest

In June 2012 we launched our search for the UK's finest amateur wine taster. Almost 5000 of you came out to play. We knew you were good, but the quality of your taste buds still astounded us. Over three gruelling rounds of blind tastings held in our shops, we whittled the field down to just twelve finalists from towns from Aberdeen to London - and from equally diverse walks of life. These finalists arrived at London's AWC Wine Academy to face their toughest challenge yet. The morning session saw the contestants guided through a wine tasting Boot Camp of taste experiments, blind tastings and food matching challenges. On the basis of their performance the field was reduced to just four, who then faced the afternoon's gruelling final.

The Judges - Susie Barrie MW & Peter Richards MW

What all our contestants had in common was a phenomenal amount of raw talent. We therefore needed to put them through a suitably challenging test. So we enlisted the expertise of the UK wine scene's power couple and regulars on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen: Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW. The Master of Wine wonder couple presided over the final of The Palate 2012, as well as running an exacting but informative Boot Camp to further hone the contestants' skills. With ingenious demonstrations, designed to separate the simply knowledgeable from the truly talented, Peter and Susie illustrated a variety of techniques to get the best out of finalists' palates. Agonising deliberation ensued and they said the standard of the competitors blew them away.


The Palate 2012 - The Finalists

The Finalists: Jo Ames - Edinburgh, Mark Bland - Oxford, Gina Cross - London, Anna Deighton - London, Fran Evans - London, Graeme Gilloch - Manchester, Mark Higgins - Aberdeen, Vito Hind - London, Laura Martz - London, Kate McHann - London, Robert Tucker - Bristol, Alex Webb - Aberdeen all made it to the Boot Camp stages of The Palate final.

From stand-up comedians to Oxford fellows and from curious social drinkers to informed enthusiasts, the ten finalists were a gloriously mixed bunch of raw talent. Although a few were confident, the majority seriously doubted their palate's abilities even despite getting so far in the competition.

For example,Graeme Gilloch, a sociology lecturer at Lancaster University, dropped some intriguing insights into the cultural and historical role of wine in Europe, but was unsure of his wine-tasting skills, despite having fought off thousands of people to get to the final.

Another doubtful contestant was copywriter Alex Webb, from Macclesfield. Although he said he had a competitive wife at home, egging him on to wine tasting glory, he wasn't at all sure of his chances. He said: "I definitely didn't rate my tasting abilities before The Palate and, although I still have lots to learn, I feel more confident about my judgement now. Anyone can do it, though; if you just stop and think about what you're drinking, you can taste wine."

Mark Bland, an academic who had attended many tastings at Oxford University, was proof that practice can improve confidence. He said that he applied the same sort of thinking that he applied to textual analysis to pick out characteristics in wine.

However it was Fran Evans who pipped them all at the post to be named "The Palate 2012". Meet Fran here

Graeme Gillock Alex Webb Mark Bland
Graeme Gillock Alex Webb Mark Bland

Thinking of entering The Palate 2013?...

Peter Richards offered one last thought "The fact that many consumers feel so intimidated by the wine world is one of the major challenges in the industry today. The Palate 2012 proved that wine can be fun, that you can get stuck in and not worry about not knowing your Cru Classés from your elbow." We whole heartedly agree, everybody has a palate; you only have to ask people how they take their tea, which brand of chocolate they buy or whether they prefer a Jalfrezi or a Korma to prove this.


We hope that you will be inspired to put your palate to the test by joining us back here for The Palate 2014.