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Why virtual wine tastings are here to stay

Why virtual wine tastings are here to stay

After lockdown put a stop to in-person wine tastings and visits to wineries, the industry had to get creative. Enter virtual wine tastings.

Why virtual wine tastings are here to stay

People from all across the globe are now logging on to take a sip together, and judging by the popularity and surprising ease of this approach, it’s not going to disappear when the pandemic ends.

So how do they work? In online tastings, the participants will generally have to send off ahead of time for the bottles of wine being tasted. Then everyone sits down in front of their computers with some open bottles.

Alexander Jung, a vintner from Germany’s Rheingaue, an area west of Frankfurt, recently led a virtual wine-tasting session where more than 100 people joined. Streamed live on Instagram, it kicked off the first of three tasted bottles with a Riesling from a vintner in western Germany’s Erbach.

“Good for drinking and boozing,” one taster wrote in the chat commentary of the 2018 Riesling. The vintner laughed and explained why it’s more than a wine to just get drunk on.

After less than half a year under coronavirus restrictions, the German wine institute lists more than 100 sellers who offer tastings online, from the Mosel to the Saale-Unstrut region.

“With relatively little work on the part of the sellers, they can reach a lot of people,” says Ernst Buescher, a spokesman for the wine institute. “It’s a trend that’s risen out of necessity – but online wine tasting will last beyond the pandemic,” he predicts.

Meanwhile in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, British providers have set up virtual tastings amid the lockdown.

“We’ll taste two wines and play the quiz together and against each other – see who really knows their stuff,” writes Sam of the East London Wine School. Users can join the events on the Zoom video conference app free of charge.

Staff at Majestic Wines, a British retailer, meanwhile offer virtual tastings from stores, while The Virtual Tasting Room’s hosts invite followers on Instagram to dress up for events if they feel like it. “Actual ball gowns not required. Wear something festive that makes you feel fab.”

Tasters can also explore a virtual wine course through French Wine Adventure’s online wine school. Participants can take part in a “complete wine course including wines, videos and terroir,” and can also send off for food and wine pairing guides.

Californian vintners are also offering to bring the state’s wines to people’s living rooms through tastings, brunches and live cooking demonstrations. The California Wine Institute, an association of 1,000 wineries, lists 58 events dotted throughout the state.

Whether tasters are looking for brief videos introducing a particular wine or to join a larger class or course, the options are growing daily in these thirsty times.

Virtual tastings can’t replace the experience of tasting wine with other people, says Theresa Olkus, who also runs tastings in Germany. But they show how fast the wine sector is embracing digital possibilities. “We want to continue this in the long term, and develop the format to keep it interesting.”

Reuters

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