Just a few weeks ago, most people would have laughed at the idea of virtual booze tastings, conducted over platforms like Zoom. Now, because of the coronavirus lockdown, at any hour of the day you’ll find screens full of squares of people from all walks of life holding glasses of different shapes and sizes swirling, sniffing, sipping and connecting virtually over a taste.
“Our industry relies on meetings and events: walk-around tastings, dinners, desk sides, press trips,” wine and spirits publicist and founder of Cuvée & Co, Dana Bruneau said. “It involves a lot of sipping, spitting, handshakes and hugs. The concept of virtual tastings was challenging pre-pandemic. Frankly, no one was that interested.”
Bruneau is right: tastings have always been intimate gatherings over bars and around tables, not over the web. But the perfect storm appears to be a global pandemic and rise of instagram personalities. They’ve made sure we can still enjoy alcohol together.
People are still drinking during the pandemic, but they’re doing so at home. Many people are struggling with loneliness. That’s why virtual tastings are a brilliant way to spend an hour. Bruneau agrees: “Now, it’s everything,” she said.
So grab a glass and check out our favorite online tasting opportunities. For most of these, you don’t need anything but the wine or spirits you already have in your house. And even if you don’t have these things in your home, the experience of online tastings is more about inclusivity and community ― you can enjoy them with a glass of anything. These gatherings are free, fun and interactive, scratching an itch many didn’t realize they had pre-pandemic.
THE BEST VIRTUAL WINE TASTINGS
Journey Through The 18 Noble Grapes
WHO: Shakera Jones of Black Girls Dine Too
WHEN: Sundays 8:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT: “Each week I pick a grape and give people a fact-based but fun and approachable crash course. The history of the grape, where I think it grows best, and tasting notes,” Jones told HuffPost. Tastings are archived on her website. While it helps to have the grape she’s discussing, you can still learn everything without it.
Virtual Happy Hour
WHEN: Fridays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT: This one’s also hosted by Jones. Just drink whatever you want and be prepared for a good time. This Friday, she’s screening the film “Uncorked.”
Ball Gown Social Hour
WHEN: Announced via their Instagram accounts
ABOUT: Sarah and Stephen “strive to fill the social gap caused by staying at home, to toast each other, share our favorite bottles, dance and laugh.” They also provide a red-carpet experience where participants (the inaugural event had over 20) can show off their outfits.
#Winewednesday Happy Hour
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET every Wednesday
ABOUT: These are “fun yet educational virtual #winewednesday happy hours to introduce followers to our clients and their wines (where to buy online), answer questions they may have about them and promote the different ways people can support our hospitality community,” Richards said. Follow @ColangeloPR and @VinoConcierge
Lyon Wine Tastings
WHO: Caroline Conner of Lyon Wine Tastings
WHEN: Every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m. ET
ABOUT: These are free virtual wine tasting lessons with whatever you have in the house. Founder and presenter Caroline Conner is a wine expert, but don’t let that scare you away. “My tastings are snobbery-free. I am teaching people how to taste wine from the ground up, I prefer newbies!” Conner said. Book your spot on her website, print the tasting sheet, show up with a glass of whatever you have in the house and enjoy Caroline’s laid-back approach to leading you and up to five others through a tasting. Follow @lyonwinetastings
Sip and Stretch
WHO: Morgan Perry of Vino Vinyasa
WHEN: Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT: It’s all about making yoga and wine accessible,” founder Morgan Perry told HuffPost. “Our virtual Sip and Stretch happy hours are geared toward all levels and are beginner-friendly.” They start with 15 minutes of yoga/stretching and then a discussion of the type of wine. Follow @vinovinyasayoga on Instagram for more information.
The Real House Wine’s Virtual Happy Hour
WHO: Amanda Claire Goodwin of The Real House Wine
WHEN: Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT: “I briefly teach about wine regions and explain things in simple terms. I keep information to 20-30 minutes maximum, and the rest is centered around fun, drinking games and showing me your happy hour outfit,” Goodwin told HuffPost. Follow her at @therealhousewine.
Virtual Zoom Happy Hour from By The Stem
WHO: Casleah Herwaldt of By The Stem
WHEN: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET
ABOUT: “I like to have everyone share what they are sipping on and it’s a good way to learn about different wines and what different people like. My main goal is to make wine fun, approachable and form a sense of community.” Follow her at @bythestem on Instagram.
Coast to Coast Happy Hour
WHEN: Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Instagram live
ABOUT: “My platform is targeted toward people who aren’t wine snobs and don’t have all the wine education. Just fun people who enjoy wine,” Rodriguez shared. Their format is perfect for wine lovers (and the wine curious) of every level. “Each week we break down a wine in the simplest form. It’s a dialogue so we love when people ask questions during the live!” Petras said. Follow @themodernpour and @chelloveswine
WHAT: Sharing what she is drinking in a relaxed atmosphere.
ABOUT: “Wine brings people together and right now, we need that more than ever,” she told HuffPost. Follow her at @watchmesip.
WHO: Nicole Muscari, founder of The Chelsea Wine Society
WHAT: Brunch. Muscari picks a grape or region to discuss. Attendees are encouraged to bring a glass.
WHEN: Sundays at 3:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT: “As humans we crave community and social interaction, and as a New Yorker specifically, I wanted to do something that we are all currently missing ... Sunday bunch!” Muscari said. Follow @grapechic to stay up to date on her tastings.
United In Bubbly
WHO: Gina Lyons of @champagnesquadofficial
WHAT: United in Bubbly
WHEN: Saturdays at 4 p.m. ET on Instagram Live
ABOUT: “I start out with basic knowledge, and pull an expert, whether from a Champagne house, a chef, or another wine blogger who can deep dive just a bit. But I like to keep it fun and approachable at all times,” said Lyons, the Champagne expert behind the account.
So many wine tastings have popped up that five influencers from Los Angeles, New York and the U.K. banded together as a new account, @thevirtualtastingroom, which shares all of the wine tastings going on. This is the one account to follow to get information easily in one place. The account only shares happy hours and tastings that are free and ones that can teach people new to the industry and does so through a weekly calendar.
This trend is likely to continue. “Brands still need to promote. Writers still need to write. Influencers still need to influence. It’s a fragile ecosystem and virtual tastings are an incredible way to explore, educate, stay connected and inevitably, grow and support the industry,” Bruneau, of Cuvée & Co said.
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