As the 500-year-old bell tower tolls, about 25 students from the University of Oxford cross a medieval cobblestone street. They duck under a stone archway and slip into a room named after T.S. Eliot, who studied here a century ago.

The students drop their backpacks and get ready for practice. They’re here to hone their tongues. This week, an elite team of Oxford’s six best tasters will battle theUniversity of Cambridge to see which group has the most refined palate.

The Oxford-Cambridge rivalry dates back to the 13th century. Now, these tasting teams are hoping to be recognized as an official sport.

A Sophisticated Version Of Guess The Grape — But Is It A Sport?

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Emanuel/NPR

Anyone who knows me knows that the perfect weekend getaway always consists of an evening spent with my hubby and a great glass of wine. But the truth is, wine can be a bit complicated to anyone just starting out. If you’re interested in learning more about wine, there are some general categories to consider for the next time you’re playing hostess and serving wine to guests:

Sparkling – Sparkling wine ranges from very dry to very sweet, and generally contains less alcohol than other table wines. You’ll usually find that sparkling wine is either white or rosé. Interesting note: only sparkling wine produced in Champagne, France is technically given the title of Champagne.

  • Pair with: Poultry or seafood, a creamy sauce, cheese, or enjoy on its own.
  • When to serve: Celebrations and parties

White – With white wine, grapes are separated from their skins and made into juice before fermentation. They’re not all light wines. They can be light-, medium- or full-bodied, which represents how thick they feel in your mouth. Sweet wines like Riesling tend to be on the lighter (thinner) end while Chardonnay is at the fuller end, with a higher alcohol content, and a rich, creamy flavor.

  • Pair with: Fish, salads, and meals with sour flavors like lemon, as well as desserts.
  • When to serve: Light whites for summer events, or fall for full-bodied whites

Rosé  If you’re looking for an in-between selection, Rosé is a good option.It is a versatile wine that can be paired with many dishes. It’s typically made from black grapes (red-wine grapes), giving it subtle color. However, like whites, it’s best served soon after its release for optimal flavor and aromas.

  • Pair with: Most cheeses, pasta dishes, as well as any spring or summer meal.
  • When to serve: Spring and summer events and parties

Red – Red wines have bold, complex flavors, but it’s hard to generalize them because they have so many flavor profiles and aromas. As a rule, most are commonly paired with red meat. When choosing the type you want to pair with your meal, consider the meat (if any) you’ll be serving. The bolder the wine, the richer the meat should be.

  • When to serve: Great year-round, but should be your go-to for fall and winter dinner parties and gatherings.
  • Pair with: A main course that includes red meats, strong cheeses or salty foods

Dessert – Made from naturally sweet grapes, these wines are the sweetest. These always taste delicious alongside fruit, chocolate and other desserts. Keep in mind that you want to serve one that’s sweeter than the dessert, so the food doesn’t take away or change the wine’s flavor.

  • When to serve: After the main course in any meal
  • Pair with: Other desserts, or salty foods


Categorizing wine isn’t as easy as white or red; there is a whole spectrum of wine varieties to learn. In fact, there are hundreds of types of both red and white wine grapes (called varietals) contributing to their diversity. The key to successful wine tasting is developing your palate. The most basic way to start is to begin with what you smell and taste – from there, you’ll unearth the many aromas and flavors that go into a single sip. Wine can have aromas ranging from fruit to herbs to smoky scents, and over time you’ll pick up on the different hints of each. So don’t be afraid to make a whole experience out of it – grab your partner and make a fun, sophisticated date out of it!

Die Weinstube Spitzhäuschen (a wine bar) from 1416 in Bernkastel-Kues, Rheinland-Pfalz, Southwestern Germany. Bernkastel-Kues is a winegrowing center on the Mosel river. The town lies 50 km from Trier and is a state-recognized health resort (Erholungsort) and birthplace of one of the most famous German polymaths, the mediaeval churchman and philosopher Nikolaus von Kues (Cusanus). There are many wineries here - Riesling is the customary grape variety, although smaller quantities of other varieties, such as Burgunder, Rivaner, Kerner and Dornfelder, are also grown.