Cambridge students win prestigious wine tasting competition

My final story as News Editor for Varsity this term, and we end with a happy story of Cambridge winning a prestigious wine tasting competition! It’s been a really enriching process, dealing with a lot of Cambridge stories while revising for exams! I’ve promoted all the stories on Facebook and Twitter, as well as managing a team of two Deputy News Editors, finding stories, researching and keeping up to date almost 24 hours a day on Cambridge stories!


Team members Vaiva Imbrasaite, Ellie JY Kim and David Beall

A group of Cambridge students have won this year’s Left Bank Bordeaux Cup, one of the world’s biggest amateur wine tasting competitions, beating eight other teams from business schools and universities from around the globe.

The final took place in the cellars of Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux. The winning trio, comprising Ellie JY Kim, David Beall and Vaiva Imbrasaite, have gained international press coverage thanks to their fruitful year in competitions.

The semi-finals took place in London at the Connaught Hotel, in which the team took part in a trivia round, two rounds of red wine tastings and a round of sweet wine tasting. By the end there was a tie between Oxford and Cambridge for second place. Cambridge won against their opposition with a round of trivia questions to reach the finals in Bordeaux.

Speaking to Varsity, Vaiva Imbrasaite, a PhD student, said that the team only expected to end up in the top half of entrants. Their win came as a “very pleasant surprise”, according to Vaiva and “surreal” to her team-mate Ellie. Their prize included return AirFrance tickets from London to Bordeaux, an invitation to the VinExpo dinner in Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a double magnum of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, which  2002 –

Vaiva commented on travel aspect of the competition: “The travel to the finals was really hectic. I was travelling there straight from a conference in Finland where I was presenting my PhD work, and my team-mates were travelling from London.” Both her flight and replacement flight were cancelled because of strike action in France.

She joined the Blind Wine Tasting Society’s tasting sessions last year, in which members guess the grape variety, country, region, sub-region and the vintage. She joined the seven-strong Varsity team, doing tastings every day for a month before a Varsity match in February.

A significant amount of their training was self-study, and self-arranged tasting sessions. Team captain Ellie JY Kim said that fellows from Churchill, Downing, and Trinity helped them with the trainings by inviting them to taste their wines out of their magnificent cellars.

Speaking of her introduction to wine tasting, Ellie said: “Blind wine tasting is one the most bizarrely interesting student activities I found in Cambridge.  I started coming to the blind wine tasting society with a friend in October 2011 out of sheer curiosity. It was a refreshing and stimulating challenge to use both my senses, as well as analytical reasoning based on wine knowledge, to make a deduction as to what the wine is.”

Story link: http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/6088

May Bumps lead to death of local wildlife

One resident claims he saw at least two ducklings killed in one race. He calls the increasing number of rowers on the River “at crisis point”

Rowers on the River Cam. Credit: Alison Christine

One local resident has accused rowers at the University of Cambridge of killing ducklings during the May Bumps.

The colleges’ annual races took place last week over three days, starting on Wednesday.

Lee Culley, who lives in a boat on the river, claims he witnessed at least two ducklings being killed during one race.

“It was absolutely disgusting,” he said. “They just sped through even though I shouted to them, warning them about the ducks.”

“They just kept on going and their blades went through the ducks and killed two. The ducks were only three weeks old.”

“Another one died the next day and the mother has none but keeps coming back to my boat looking for the brood.”

Mr Culley has expressed his worry about other wildlife being threatened because there are “too many” rowers in the river, he argues. “The number of rowers has dramatically increased from about five years ago. The situation is at crisis point.”

Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs, which runs the event, said: “Every effort is being made to mitigate disturbance to wildlife and to keep ducks and other waterfowl out of the way of racing boats.”

They added: “Indeed, the start of the men’s second division on Wednesday night was delayed by 15 minutes while a family of ducks were guided out of harm’s way.”

“We are very sorry to hear of the incident Mr Culley apparently witnessed and will be briefing stewards to be extra vigilant.”

Story link: http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/6083

Solidarity demonstration outside King’s for Istanbul unrest

This story really allowed me to bring a very local Cambridge angle to an international story of huge proportions in Turkey, which I relished. I used a Turkish friend to gain some extra background on the case, as well as using Cambridge’s Turkish Society to find out more. I liaised with a Varsity colleague to get some pictures of the protest, as I was unavailable at the time to attend the event.


Credit: Martha Elwell

Protesters stood outside King’s Chapel this afternoon with placards and messages of support for the many thousands of Turks in Istanbul who have been involved in several days of unrest, which has been met with tear gas and water cannons from the police. The country’s prime minister has described the scenes as “extremists running wild”.

One placard read: ‘Istanbul is not alone’, another showing its solidarity, ‘Cambridge stands with you’. Police have now pulled out of Taksim Square, the scene of the largest anti-government protest in years.

Another protest is planned in Cambridge for tomorrow in Christ’s Piece, which is calling for those attending “to show solidarity with the protesters in Istanbul who are withholding against appalling police brutality.”

Public discontent was sparked following plans to redevelop Gezi Park, which protesters say is one of few green spaces remaining in Turkey’s largest city, and that the government is ignoring their calls for it to be saved.

‘No passage to dictatorship’, reads one sign. Credit: Martha Elwell.

The demonstration at Taksim’s Gezi Park started late on Monday after trees were torn up to make way for redevelopment to build an Ottoman era military barracks and a shopping centre. Initially a calm sit-in protest, clashes became more violent in the past 48 hours. The issue has quickly escalated to gain national and international coverage from what was previously one of only local importance. Yet this is an issue which has angered some over the perceived “Islamisation” of Turkey.

Dozens have been injured in the clashes. The country’s prime minister,  Tayyip Erdogan, conceded that the police had been too heavy-handed, but insisted that plans to redevelop the park will still go ahead.

He called for an immediate end to the protests, yet the removal of barracades by the police then welcomed tens of thousands to gather in Taksim Square. Mr Erdogan also said order would be restored “to ensure the safety of people and their property”.

Crowds in Istanbul chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign”. At least one police officer fired his gun into the air.

Protests have spread to other Turkish cities, including the capital Ankara, where thousands again gathered on Saturday.

Story link: http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/6024