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World’s finest wine tasters coming to Whistler

Chardonnay of the Century to be worth its weight in gold

The golden liquid swirls around the edges of the crystal glass, releasing a myriad of odours. The first sip produces hints of apple, lime and other fruit such as peaches, perhaps raspberry or vanilla, tea or rose petals, with touches of oak. It might be an exuberant taste, or subdued. It can jump with acid, or be comparatively sweet.

As many as 50 of the top international noses and palates will be hosted by Tourism Whistler in the Whistler Conference Centre from Sept. 7 to 12 to rate all the entries in the Chardonnay of the Century — Million Dollar Challenge.

The winner will walk off with the top prize of $500,000, and runners-up will share another half-million dollars in prizes when they are announced at a gala in January 2003.

"One of the appeals for Tourism Whistler to host this event was the opportunity to cross-promote Cornucopia, our annual food and wine event held in November," said Jill Greenwood, director of brand marketing for Tourism Whistler. "There are really good synergies with the Chardonnay of the Century bringing in such a high calibre of wine judges and high-profile wine media from around the world. It gives us an opportunity to reach out to them, and perhaps get them involved in our food and wine event as judges or speakers, either this year or in the future.

"We are trying to establish Whistler as a premier food and wine destination, and with Cornucopia going into its sixth year we want to incorporate greater trade and consumer programs," Greenwood continued. "It has primarily been a regional draw and we want to keep that, but we hope to get awareness levels up around the world, and would like to rival the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, which is probably the top food and wine event in North America. We’d like to draw an international audience, and by hosting the Chardonnay of the Century competition, that helps us raise the profile of Whistler."

The Chardonnay of the Century contest is a creation of Hennie J.J. van Vuuren, director of the University of British Columbia’s Wine Research Centre (WRC), created in 1999. The rules are quite simple: Send a case of 12 bottles of your best Chardonnay to UBC, and the judges will take it from there. A crafty rule has ensured the best winemakers from around the world are participating. If they didn’t take up their first opportunity to enter, a collector anywhere in the world could enter on their behalf – and stand to walk away with the $500.000 prize that could have gone to the winemaker or owner. The entry fee is $750 per case, with only two or three of the bottles from each case used for judging. The wine must be at least 85 per cent in total Chardonnay content, be a still table wine, and manufactured by a registered commercial winery.


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