The Coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with much of what we used to take for granted, from the way we socialised with others to the way we experienced events in the real world. Although some elements of normality are now returning to our lives, we are still very much in the woods, and it is best to play it safe while we try to make the most of what is available to us in these difficult times.
If you are a wine lover who misses being sociable, you might enjoy hosting an online wine tasting for friends. All you need is a steady internet connection and these five easy steps to raise a glass and spread the cheer.
- The Guests
A wine tasting is always better enjoyed in smaller numbers, and this is especially true for an online version of the event. With fewer guests, it is easier to coordinate a date and time that works for everyone. It can be difficult to break the ice between strangers in a virtual event, so a limited guest list affords the opportunity for participants to get to know each other a little at the start of the event. This way, it will be easier to establish a level of comfort and familiarity, and at the same time, spare enough time for the tasting rounds and discussions.
We recommend a group of four to eight participants.
- The Wines
The main attraction of a wine tasting – online or otherwise – is after all, the wines. Draw up your list of selected wines well in advance, so everyone has enough time to purchase them before the event. Consider asking for inspiration from your guests, or choose the wines based on themes like varietals, vintage, or country of origin. A minimum of three to five different wines is a good thumb rule for ensuring that the experience is not too crowded but also has enough variety.
This can be an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try some new wines.
- The Technology
Thanks to one year of lockdowns and social distancing, the choice for video conferencing platforms has boomed and most of us have become comfortable with their use. Choose a platform that is compatible with multiple devices like phones, laptops, and tablets; and one that everyone has access to. While Zoom, Google Meets, Facetime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger Rooms are all good options for small groups, you should double-check for any limits on time and participants. You don’t want to get ejected from a Zoom call because the 40-minute time limit for free users ended in the middle of a tasting round.
- The Supplies
Give your guests a kit list so everyone has these key items at hand during the tasting:
- Glassware – a fresh glass is recommended for each wine to be tasted if you want to avoid washing up between rounds
- Corkscrew – screwcaps are becoming popular, but you will probably need this for some of your wines
- Notepad or tasting grid – use a wine journal or tasting grids or plain paper to take notes. You can also skip this entirely and simply drink and discuss as you go.
- Spit bucket or spittoon – generally used in professional tastings, but can be used by participants who prefer it
- Snacks – go fancy with some traditional food pairings, or experiment with these unconventional food choices to match your wines. Snacks can help soak up some of the alcohol between tastings.
- The Games
Making online wine tastings as fun and engaging as in-person events can be a challenge. You can add some pizzazz to your event by holding a pub quiz with wine-related trivia questions between each round of tasting. Or you can try these blind tasting games that can be played online to make the tasting event more interactive. Another option is to turn the actual tasting into a game, where participants are randomly asked to choose one of the wines, taste it, and describe it to the rest of the group, who then must identify the correct wine from the line-up.
As a host, it can be helpful to have at hand the official tasting notes of the wines from their producers’ websites or online wine databases. You can use these to guide your guests when comparing and contrasting the wines you try. Whether you keep your wine tasting a simple and close affair or choose to go for the full bells and whistles, remember to enjoy the experience and have fun with the process.