Blind champions

By Joan Munné, technical director and oenologist in Raventós i Blanc.

A farmer from a very young age, I have been working at Raventos i Blanc for fifteen years. I graduated as an oenologist at the URV (2008-09) and studied to become a Sommelier at the CETT-UB (2012-14). Harvests at Graham Beck, Quinta Sardonia and Castellroig. Lover of wine, landscapes, nature and different cultures.

After participating in three competitions and never passing the qualifying round, in 2019 I had no intention of even signing up since my regular partner, Pere Jané, framer and sommelier, did not want to participate for personal reasons. But I had caught the bug and, almost as a joke, during a gastronomical experience with friends from the village, I had the chance of signing up with Àlex Peris, lifelong friend and owner of Olives Blai.

And so it was, on 9 January at 10.03 we were signed up, three minutes after registration had opened and two minutes before it closed! That’s when we set to work.

Just as I had done last year, we got ready for the wine tasting with other couples from Penedès who had registered: Ramon Jané and Toni Carbo, champions in the 2018 edition, Jaume, owner of the Angelus winebar in Vilafranca and Ramon Francàs, journalist and Pepe Raventós’ partner in the contest.

I remember that Àlex, during the first preparatory tasting in the Marejol restaurant, said that just sharing that moment with true geniuses from the world of wine made signing up for the contest worthwhile. That same day, Jose, owner of Marejol, made up a little blind-taste game. If someone in the group blindly guessed a wine, he would allow Peris and me to go down into his wine cellar for 10 minutes to find whatever wine we wanted, since we were the least experienced… Unfortunately, no one in the group guessed the wine correctly, so we missed out on Chateau Rayas.

We did a total of 12 training tastings. First, we all tasted blind on our own, then we discussed with our partner and finally with the whole group. It is important to repeat the tastings twice for all the wines, jotting down thoughts about the tasting notes and keeping a record of all the data.

For us, the competition was an experience and good fun. Getting there, learning from true masters and an opportunity to taste great wines.

We tested classics such as: Ceretto Bricho Roche (Barolo), Chateau Latour Pauillac, Mas Doix Carinyena Centanaria (Priorat), Le Moine Clos Sant Denis, La Souteronne of Hervé Souhaut, Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage, wines from the New World such as the Sadie Family (South Africa), Felton Road (New Zealand) or Father John (USA), among many others. And two very special wines, the ones which gave us the victory, Quiñón of Valmira and Sassica.

Despite the preparatory tastings, we came to Madrid without any pressure. I was surprised by Àlex’ sensitivity for wine tasting. We had been studying tasting notes as if we were preparing for an exam. We spent the previous two days relaxing in Madrid. The aim was to enjoy the wines, the event, the cheeses, the colleagues and the desire that one of our colleagues from the Penedès wine-tasting group would win.

In the first round, we tried seven wines, we had great fun and really enjoyed ourselves. We felt that we had done well, whether or not we got into the final. To be honest, with the first four wines, we didn’t get much right. We thought about guessing an English sparkling wine, (I had tried it a short time ago at a talk at Xerigots, Vilafranca) but strategically we didn’t want to risk it. We put Champagne like everyone else, which was a mistake. The sixth bottle, a Quiñon of Valmira and the seventh one Sassicaia, took us into the final.

We were jumping with joy when we saw that we and four other couples from Penedès had got into the final. What a success! A success that is just the tip of an iceberg of the revolution going on in our house. Pepe with Ramon, Juan A Garcia and Jaume Cuscó, Agusti Torello and Jaume Colet, Ruben Pedregosa and Carlos Martinez; some real geniuses.

A sandwich for lunch and the final.

10 couples, 7 wines and 60 minutes.

Really, just being there was already a success, but there were many more anxious and tense moments. We were much more lost than in the first round.

When the wines were finally unveiled, we thought we had not got much right. Our joy was the Aristos Chardonnay of Chile, since many couples had put Burgundy, but we had put the United States. The other wines were very difficult, Venus Universal 2005, Torbeck the Struie (Australia didn’t even cross our minds) and a 1969 Gomes Colares, that we couldn’t even begin to imagine.

When they announced the third prize, we were really happy because it went to Jaume and Joan. But Peris and I looked at each other and assumed that we would not get a prize.

The second prize went to two winegrowers from Ribera del Duero, Felix Crespo and Manuel Cantalapiedra, and I am very interested in finding out about their project.

A few seconds before the first prize was announced, Pepe pointed to me and said that I had won, but I said no, it was impossible…

And… A few seconds later, first prize, goes to couple No. 10; no one spoke and then they said our name… Joan Munné and Àlex Peris! We still can’t quite believe it, nor can our friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

We never thought we could win!

Being blind in front of a wine is a test of great humility. It is a pathway to learning, sharing, enjoying and being able to interact with an area or a winegrower that may be thousands of kilometres away in every sense.

Special thanks to Pepe Raventós who over the years together has always encouraged me to travel, to try new things and to learn! And to all the Raventos i Blanc team, especially to Sandra and Lore; I’m sure that if some day they want to, they could also win.

Thanks too to Raimon Sadurní, who, over the last 23 years, has turned the “Aula del Vi” in Sant Pere Molanta, into a point of reference for wine-tasting, defending the countryside and imparting passion for the vine and the wine of the Penedès area. Countless finalists, several podiums and two champions in 12 editions came from there. We have left the “cheque” of champions there.

Finally, many thanks to Toni Carbo and everyone in the tasting group who helped us to prepare for the contest. Without them we would never have won. We are infinitely grateful.

All of us share in this success!

We will continue to enjoy it!

Joan Munné

Technical director and oenologist of Raventós i Blanc

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