When Tinashe Nyamudoka and fellow Zimbabwean sommeliers Joseph\u00a0Dhafana,\u00a0Marlvin Gwese and\u00a0Pardon\u00a0Taguzu arrived at Burgundy\u2019s Ch\u00e2teau de Gilly for the 2017 World Wine Tasting Championships (WWTC), they sensed surprise in the air.\r\n\r\n\u201cEveryone there had this look of, \u2018Zimbabwe doesn\u2019t make wine. How did you guys end up here?\u2019 \u201d says Nyamudoka.\r\n\r\nThey were the first Zimbabwean and first all-Black team to compete in the event that Nyamudoka calls \u201cthe Olympics of blind tasting,\u201d organized by La Revue du Vin de France, a century-old French wine publication.\r\n\r\nTheir experience is chronicled in the documentary, Blind Ambition, which won the Audience Prize at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The documentary was made knowing how Euro-centric and overwhelmingly white that the wine establishment can be, says its director, Warwick Ross, also a winemaker.\r\n\r\nWhile their stories differ, Nyamudoka, Dhafana, Gwese and Taguzu all fled their economically troubled homeland for South Africa, where they became wine connoisseurs at four of the country\u2019s top restaurants. Their paths to WWTC shed light on the inequities of certain industry events, and demonstrate how the wine business can become more inclusive.\r\nWhy WWTC Matters\r\nNyamudoka remembers at the 2017 championship, the initial surprise at seeing Team Zim, as they\u2019ve become known, soon turned to warm acceptance.\r\n\r\n\u201cEveryone cheered when they broke into a cappella song,\u201d says Jancis Robinson, MW about the team\u2019s memorable arrival.\r\n\r\nFor Nyamudoka, that reception was important.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s one part I love about wine,\u201d he says. \u201cIf you\u2019re really in a space of people who enjoy and embrace wine and its culture, there is this one big family, and you\u2019re embraced, too.\u201d\r\n\r\nLaunched in 2013, the WWTC began as an exclusively European event. It became a global competition in 2015, and now teams from the U.S., China and elsewhere compete with tasters from France or Belgium.\r\n\r\nAt the annual event, teams of four must recognize 12 wines selected from nine countries, served blind in a span of two hours. They must identify the wine\u2019s variety, country of origin, vintage, region and producer.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s no joke, and so stressful,\u201d says Dhafana, who first competed as part of Team South Africa in 2015.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a bit like you\u2019re in hell. You get the wines, but then everyone is all over the place. For you to come to agree on the one it could be takes a lot of time.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor some wine professionals, however, the challenge is worth it.\r\n\r\nThe event offers an \u201camazing opportunity to meet wine enthusiasts from around the world,\u201d says Gwendolyn Alley, a wine writer and 2019 Team USA competitor. It allows budding and established wine pros to make connections that can led to new ventures.\r\nThe Cost of Going Global\r\nSommelier and winemaker Jean Vincent \u201cJV\u201d Ridon started the South African Wine Tasting Championship in 2013, and coaches Team South Africa for the WWTC.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt really is a world championship,\u201d says Ridon. \u201cNew Zealand, China, Japan take part. It\u2019s not just Lichtenstein, Monaco and Luxembourg. Yes, for European teams, it\u2019s easier to get there because they are a drive away from France, but many of the people travel around parts of the world. They work in the wine industry, or they just have a passion for it.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThere are geographical advantages and disadvantages, however.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor South Africans and Zimbabweans, it\u2019s much more complicated,\u201d says Ridon. \u201cThere is a huge cost involved in getting there.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn advance of the 2017 competition, Robinson helped set up a crowdfunding initiative to contribute to the Zimbabweans\u2019 travel expenses.\r\n\r\nThe European locale and support from French partners means most of the wines are sourced locally. These bottles are not always easily available to African competitors.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere's clearly a home-field advantage in the sense that the wines are procured in Europe,\u201d says John Vilja, CEO of Wine Acuity, an organization that hosts a qualifying competition for Americans who hope to advance to the WWTC.\r\n\r\nAt WWTC 2017, nine of the 12 wines poured for blind tasters to identify were European.\r\nRepresenting the Future\r\nWhy do so many make the effort to participate?\r\n\r\nFor Nyamudoka, the competition brought personal and professional acceptance in the global wine community.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s one thing reading about it, but experiencing it is another thing entirely,\u201d he says. \u201cAs a wine student, it means so much. In this part of the world, we\u2019re not exposed enough [to the international wine industry], and if you\u2019re not exposed enough, you never improve.\r\n\r\n\u201cGoing on a global stage gives you that platform to interact with others, to learn from others and figure out, \u2018How can I use this knowledge back home?\u2019 \u201d\r\n\u201cGoing on a global stage gives you that platform to interact with others, to learn from others and figure out, \u2018How can I use this knowledge back home?\u2019 \u201d \u2014Tinashe Nyamudoka, Kumusha Wines\r\nFollowing the competition, Nyamudoka developed his own wine label, Kumusha, which means \u2018your home\u2019 in Shona.\r\n\r\nPeer recognition can be valuable, says Ridon.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a way to stop doubting that [Team Zim is] here by mistake,\u201d he says of other participants\u2019 surprise at Team Zim\u2019s 2017 arrival. \u201cThey are here to stay in the wine industry.\u201d\r\n\r\nRidon says winning is not always the ultimate goal. \u201cThe goal is, first, not to finish last,\u201d he says with a chuckle. \u201cBut, also, to show the world that Zimbabwe is a nest for great sommeliers.\u201d\r\n\r\nDhafana calls WWTC \u201cthe apex, it\u2019s the roof.\u201d He says that Team Zim\u2019s inclusion opens the door for other African wine experts or budding enthusiasts.\r\n\r\nHe and Nyamudoka want to see more African countries compete at the championships. Nyamudoka plans to get wine professionals from Kenya and Botswana involved in blind-tasting competitions, too.\r\n\r\nAccording to Dhafana, many Africans \u201cbelieve wine is for those who have got money, or were born in a wine-drinking family. I was not.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhilippe DeCantenac, organizer of the World Wine Tasting Championships, would like as many countries as possible to be represented.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor that, we try to make this event more well-known in the world, through videos, Facebook, TV coverage,\u201d he says. \u201cWe also help new countries organize their own selection.\u201d\r\n\r\nRobinson welcomes new competitors and community members to wine, while Alley would also like to see more women take part.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe industry as a whole is definitely changing since we filmed, largely as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement,\u201d Alley says. Hopefully, the old guard can keep pace.