Student Team Heads to International Wine Tasting Competition Finals

grapes in a vineyard

A Yale Law School team including Leighton Cook ’24, Sydney Daniels ’24, Arjun Malik ’24, and Kyle Ranieri ’24, has qualified for the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup global finals taking place in late June. 

The Left Bank Bordeaux Cup is an international competition for student wine-tasting clubs for universities across North America, Asia, and Europe. The Law School team is the first to qualify for the final round of competition in Bordeaux, France in a decade. The competition tests teams’ skills in what is known as a blind tasting, the act of tasting, evaluating, and identifying wine with no information about what the wines are.

Fellow enthusiasts Ya Sheng Lin ’22 and Benedict Choi ’23 helped provide guidance on the competition to the team. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, Daniels and Ranieri formed a new team and jumped into preparations, armed with enthusiasm and a love for wine. 

“We all got involved because we appreciated the art of wine and used the competition as an opportunity to learn more about it,” Ranieri said. 

In 2023, they took their first crack at the competition with a team including Choi, Adam Gerard ’23, Ranieri, and Daniels. After a solid but nonqualifying performance, Daniels, Choi, and Ranieri strategized for the 2024 competition. Beginning in September, they conducted weekly self-funded blind wine tastings, read books on Bordeaux, and led presentations educating fellow members about the Left Bank. Training sessions with Tom Baxter of Sotheby’s helped hone their skills.

On Jan. 22, they showcased their knowledge on both tasting and theory at the French Consulate in New York City against 10 opponent teams from other schools including Harvard, Wharton, and Columbia. During competition, teams are asked to identify the correct vintage or appellations (the legally defined area where the grapes are grown) of the wines and tested on their knowledge about the Left Bank of Bordeaux. The Law School team, along with the Wharton team, secured a spot in the finals and prepares for the international finals held at Château Duhart Milon in Bordeaux on June 28.

Preparations for the finals entail more rigorous study and blind tastings, as the team delves deeper into the intricacies of Left Bank wines and their history. The final also serves as a celebration of shared passion and camaraderie, as participants are inducted into the Commanderie, pledging allegiance to the wines of the Left Bank.

“I’ve come to realize that wine isn’t just about what’s in the bottle — it’s about the connections it fosters and the experiences it creates,” Daniels said. “This experience has shown me that wine culture doesn’t need to be exclusive or intimidating.”