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The wine equivalent of the X_Factor was launched last June – a search for the UK’s finest amateur wine taster: Oddbins The Palate 2012. Launched to prove that you don’t need to be a qualified wine snob to recognise a quality bottle.

Almost 5,000 participants were whittled down via three increasingly gruelling blind tasting challenges held in Oddbins’ shops to the final ten who attended the final at London’s AWC Wine Academy. Ayo Akintola, the Managing Director of Oddbins, summed up the rationale behind The Palate 2012:

“Everybody has a palate. You only have to ask people how they take their tea, which brand of cereal they prefer or whether they prefer a Jalfrezi or a Korma to prove this. What we wanted to do was cut through the nonsense and demonstrate that you don’t need to have a cellar the size of Europe or a diploma in wine, to use that palate.”

Loads of people came out to play at Oddbins The Palate 2012 and the skills displayed were astounding. From stand-up comedians to Oxford Fellow, curious social drinkers to informed enthusiasts, from Aberdeen to London, it couldn’t have been more of a more mixed bunch. But what they all had in common was a phenomenal amount of raw talent. They therefore needed to be put them to a suitably high-powered test. So Oddbins 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 duo took the contestants on a crash course through wine tasting, including aroma tests, flavour experiments and blindfolded tasting. The finalists were then asked to try three wines with cheese and smoked salmon and give a 60-second presentation on which wine they would pair with which food and why. The four best answers were chosen to proceed to the Grand Final, they were Mark Bland, Fran Evans, Graeme Gilloch and Alex Webb.

In the Grand Final the remaining four were given half an hour to taste six wines blind and identify vintages, grape varieties, country of origin, flavours, aromas and recommended retail price. After much difficult deliberation and cogitation in the cellar, Oddbins’ Head of Wine Buying Emma Nichols, Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW unanimously chose the winner to be a Sustainability Officer from Crouch End in London: Fran Evans. As well as being crowned Oddbins The Palate 2012, she also bagged herself a luxury holiday for two to Tuscany’s Frescobaldi Wine Estate, a magnum of Champagne and her own wine in the Oddbins range: Collovray & Terrier’s la Closerie des Lys Chardonnay.

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