The last 12 months have been a slog for everyone, and while we’re certainly not out of the woods yet, there are many reasons to be optimistic that we might see some element of normality return to everyday life before the summer is out.
So now’s the time to get back in the socialising saddle, and an online wine tasting is a great way to do so. It’s a refreshing change from the usual Zoom quizzes (which, let’s be honest, have been done to death by now), and it gives you the chance to try a wine you might not usually go for, so you’ll have the opportunity to deviate from your usual wine bar order when you’re finally out and about again.
Step one: Choose your guest list
Tempting as it may be to invite everyone you know (starved as we all are for human interaction), a wine tasting – online or otherwise – works better with smaller numbers. Keeping it intimate allows everyone to have their say on a particular wine, and making sure participants already know each other means everyone feels comfortable if things end up getting a little raucous. A smaller number also means it’s easier to find a date and time that works for everyone.
Step two: Choose your platform
Skype, Zoom, Facetime… The last year has seen video conferencing apps and platforms become the norm for even the most tech-phobic among us. Hold your online wine tasting on a medium that everyone has access to, that can be used on multiple devices (some people will prefer to use their phones, others their laptops) and which isn’t bound by time constraints. Zoom calls, for example, have a 40-minute time limit unless you (or your work!) is a paying subscriber.
Step three: Choose wines ahead of time
Decide a good few days prior to the event which wines you’ll be tasting, to allow everyone to get hold of them either by purchasing them online or during their weekly shop. As the host, it’s really up to you which ones you go for, but you can always ask for inspiration from your guests. If comparing and contrasting wines is your main objective, choose them based loosely on theme: varietals, countries of origin or by vintage year, for example.
Since you’ll be holding this event virtually, there won’t be any opportunity for everyone to muck in and polish off leftover bottles afterwards, so be mindful of how much wine everyone could end up with. Aim for around three different wines for attendees taking part on their own – more if the event is couple-centric.
Step four: Give everyone a kit list
The wine itself is the star of the show, of course, but make sure everyone taking part also has the following to hand during the tasting:
- A fresh wine glass for each wine tasted (so there are no trips to the kitchen for washing up!)
- A corkscrew
- A pen and paper for taking notes
- Snacks (to help soak up some of the alcohol if participants are choosing not to spit)
- A spit bucket (if participants so wish)
Step five: Log on and get tasting
How you conduct the actual tasting itself is entirely up to you. You might simply choose to taste each wine at the same time, then discuss your thoughts on it (here’s how to describe wine like a pro). Or you might turn it into a game, where one guest is invited to randomly choose a wine to taste and describe to everyone else, who then have to try to identify the wine from the line-up. You could even introduce some pub quiz-style trivia questions between each round of tasting. Take notes as you go (check out our guide to taking wines notes that are genuinely useful) and then see which has fared the best at the end. And remember, the wine industry needs a lot of support right now – if there’s a bottle you’ve all particularly enjoyed, make sure you get on social media and let the producer know!