Virtual wine tastings are all the rage – so how do you organise one?
It’s easy – Guests, Wine, Location (virtual/garden), Agenda – here’s our guide to making it successful!
The people you invite and their level of interest in wine should set the agenda.
• For an informal occasion – either hire a wine guide to lead a fun, factual tasting or, if you’re on a budget, get one of our video wine guides or find a friend or family member who can present a few facts about the wine and suggest what the people should look for in terms of colour, bouquet and flavour.
• For those who want to go a little further or add something special to the evening – hire a wine guide to lead your tasting and help you explore the grape, region or wines you have chosen, advise on food pairings, and answer any questions.
• For serious wine buffs – hire a wine guide to delve into the topic of choice; whether it is grape, region, producer or all of the above, your guide can walk you through these, along with the viticulture and winery processes that are impacting the wine’s flavour, intensity and price.
For more information about hiring a wine guide or to download the video wine guide and the tasting notes, please see below.
Decide on a theme that interests you. Halfwine’s tasting packs are one source of ideas. The best themes are comparisons. There are typically four dimensions that you could use:
• Cultivar (grape or blend)
• Price (as a proxy for quality)
For example, select wines from around the world: Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, South Africa, the USA and Chile (same cultivar, similar vintage, similar price, but different regions).
When looking to assess quality, a good theme is same cultivar, same vintage, same region but different prices. Another popular - but more difficult to arrange - theme is called a ‘vertical’; same wine from the same producer but different vintages.
How much Wine?
Home delivery is quite expensive and, per bottle, the more you buy the less it costs. In one evening two, or maybe four, half bottles of wine are all one can handle without waste. You could opt to hold three or four sessions over a few weeks and buy twelve bottles with free delivery from halfwine.com. Consider whether each participant (person or couple) buys their own, or does one person buy the lot and get Halfwine to sort out the logistics of home delivery?
Thinking virtual? Which video app to use? Zoom seems to have taken the world by storm for this (Houseparty also has its devotees) but Facebook Messenger Rooms, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams all have features (restricted in the free version) to enable a virtual tasting. If you are holding the tasting for a company your normal video conferencing software should be fine.
Alternatively, when we can, organise a garden or street party - six to eight people, appropriately spaced enjoying a wine tasting, is the perfect way to re-connect with friends and family. You can still hire a virtual wine guide for the event, or depending on location, hire a wine guide to come to you.
What’s the Agenda?
How do you spend the time? How formal do you want it to be? How do you prevent the tumbleweed moments? In any setting, along with a few facts, a quiz goes down well; keep other activities in mind in case the chat flags. One fun thing is to invite one person to randomly choose a wine, taste and describe it to the others, and see if people can work out which wine is being described. Also useful is to ask each participant to get some nibbles, perhaps a hard and a soft cheese or some nuts to accompany the wines (your guide, if you have one, can advise on pairings in advance).
Below is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek sample agenda for a social gathering, sent to us by a fan of halfwine.com...
"Agenda for this eve:
1. Where are we in our house?
2. Updates: cute creatures we live with (children/cats/dogs)
3. Wine chat - what are we drinking
4. Rant 1: this weeks failings at the children's school
5. Q&A (all asking questions about the virus and expecting at least one of us to know the definitive answers)
6. Rant 2: global handling of the Coronavirus
7. Trashy TV shows screened this week
8. Obsessive exercising update (running/cycling)
9. Rant 3: something totally non-PC and fuelled by wine
Feel free to amend."
The notes about each wine on the halfwine.com website provides an ‘in house’ guide to the aromas and flavours of the wines. Others have found it useful to share the tasting notes before the tasting, rather than trying to find them and read them online during the tasting.
If you’re looking to add something special to the evening or you’re after the next level of information, consider hiring a wine guide. Halfwine works with Kay from The Bottle-Opener, an industry qualified and experienced wine guide, who has pulled together a number of discovery tasting packages for us.
- At Your Own Pace – for each of our four-half bottle tasting packs, an engaging 10 to 15 minute video outlines the wines, flavours and some grape characteristics. Available here at £10 per download.
- Live Wine Guide – for our four-halves tasting packs, a live virtual walk through of the wines, their grape characteristics and regions, and a Q&A (30 to 90 minutes) at a suitable time for you. Prices start at £5 per participant and are based on the number of people, style, and quality of the wines selected.
- Something Special – if you’re looking for that something special, contact us to discuss a bespoke event. We will create a wine experience - based on your occasion, audience/guests and the wines, regions or grapes of your choice - to enable you to explore what you love and discover more of what you could be drinking.
We can also arrange a flight of handcrafted artisan cheeses from the Pangbourne cheese shop Cheese Etc. paired with any of the above wine tasting options. And if any of your guests really would prefer beer, we can organise a tasting pack from craft brewer Firebird in Sussex. It's not wine, but it's Award Winning!
Looking for a journey of discovery? Take a look at our 24-half bottle Around The World tasting pack. This is available accompanied by a series of six private tasting sessions of up to 60 minutes each.