How do you taste wine virtually? How do you get sloshed virtually? These are questions I’ve been asked many times over the last few months by customers who come across our social media posts inviting them to join us for virtual tasting events. My answer is always, ‘well, you literally taste the wine (which we send you) and you join us on Zoom for the presentation of the wines.’ Still, it is a concept that just a year ago seemed rather ridiculous to me too!
For two decades, I’ve been hosting wine tastings for customers at venues - either in shops, restaurants or private homes. The pandemic has made us wine trade folk have to think out of the box as to how we interact and engage with our valued customers. The culture of wine drinking is a social one that involves people and togetherness - how on earth were we going to do this without breaking all the rules?
Last September, after coming to terms with the fact that we weren’t going to be able to host customers in our lovely store for tastings, we decided to go fully digital with wine tasting. We teamed up with Robin Warren- Adamson from Bolney Estate in Sussex and together we hosted our first Zoom event. Logistics was our first and only obstacle. Once we had worked out how to get the wine to our customers in time for the tasting we were on our way.
We use Eventbrite to manage our tickets - customers book via this platform and this is how it works: One ticket per household includes a Zoom Link to log in to the tasting at 19:30 hosted by us (Cellar Door Wines) and the producer of the chosen wines. We deliver three full bottles of wine plus snacks - usually cheese, crisps and charcuterie or biltong (particularly if the wine is South African!) We present a talk about the history of the winery and go through the wines and answer questions from participants.
There are many positives to online tastings for both us and attendees. The best thing about them, I think, is that a much wider audience can be reached because we are not bound by a location and getting transport to and from the venue. This makes it safer, not just from a virus catching perspective, but also means that nobody is driving to or from the venue or walking back home under the influence of alcohol. Our participants are about 60% local, the remaining 40% are from all over the UK mainland. The 2nd bonus is that friends and family from different households and parts of the country are able to connect with each other and socialise. Part of our Zoom evening involves separating into breakout rooms, un-muting ourselves and chatting in smaller groups. The rules of the breakout rooms include a ban on any mention of COVID, Brexit, religion or politics! Jokes and geeky wine related questions are welcome..
I do truly miss seeing people in the flesh, but I must be honest, I don’t miss polishing the glassware! It will be interesting to see if this virtual existence continues once we have all been vaccinated - watch this blog for further updates.
Get tickets to one of our tastings here: