A wine tasting weekend getaway may be out of the question as many states continue imposing lockdowns or phase out reopenings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But wineries and winemakers are turning to the digital world to bring the vineyards and tasting rooms straight into people’s homes.
As with other socializing events amid the health crisis, they are using Zoom, Facebook or Instagram to organize virtual wine tastings and offering packages that include shipping products to participant’s doors so they can sip and enjoy as they learn about food pairings and the winery’s portfolio.
The virtual events have given a lifeline to businesses hard hit by the closures as well as those at home itching for some distraction who enjoy wine and gathering with others equally attracted by the power of the vines.
CREATING A COMMUNITY
Many of the virtual gatherings are free to join and people don’t need anything but the wine they already have at hand. Others feature well-known sommeliers and personalities and do require reservations and come with tasting kits you can order online from the winery organizing the event.
The events provide a great way to enjoy a fun, interactive evening to alleviate the tedium and loneliness several months of pandemic worries have generated.
Online wine tastings usually last between 30 and 60 minutes. They often begin with a virtual tour of the winery, vineyard and caves, followed by a sample of different wines. Food and wine, or cheese and wine pairings often complement the evening. The events offer inclusivity, intimacy and online face-to-face meetings with experts, even the winemaker him/herself, who can answer questions of all types about their product, and recommend vintages and specific bottles.
Attendees also have the opportunity to discuss the wines with one another and even make new friends and acquaintances. And they can even take advantage of special discounts on wines from the vineyard.
If you want to fully enjoy the experience, you may also pair the wines with cheeses, meats and deserts. You can reach out to the winery before the event to find out what are the best food pairings for the wines they will present.
Free or not, the idea behind these virtual gatherings is the same as the physical ones: creating a community of people from all walks of life holding glasses of different shapes and sizes as they sniff, sip and connect to one another, albeit around a screen.
Sports outings, dinners and happy-hour bar outings used to be part of the arsenal companies used for team building pre-pandemic.
But the new world we live in demands more creative ways to achieve this and online wine tastings help in the effort, while supporting ‘shelter-at-home’ efforts.
Private zoom tastings can also offer a new way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions with friends and family separated across the city or across the country.
Businesses may also use them to entertain long-term clients or attract prospective ones.
Tradeshows and conferences, which have gone virtual, are also adding online wine tastings as part of their calendars to enhance the attendees’ experience. The events are a perfect way to unwind after a day of sessions and panels. They also give sponsors a way to get in front of an exclusive audience.
Some companies are also offering blind tasting kits where customers buy packages delivered to their homes so they can enjoy with friends over a virtual party, or exclusive presentations with a wine consultant over curated kits.
The virtual wine tasting has become so popular, even politicians are turning to them to raise money. Democratic Representatives Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Jim McGovern (Massachusetts), Salud Carbajal (California) and Kurt Schrader (Oregon) have held wine-centered fundraisers. Sos did Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas).
A MINI-VACATION FOR YOUR TASTEBUDS
For wine enthusiasts, virtual tastings offer a mini-vacation for tastebuds and a chance to savor a new fruity Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet or rosé, even from far-flung locales.
You can head to Napa Valley in California and savor a refreshing Zinfandel or a crisp Chardonnay from Virginia, even if you live in Florida or Arizona, all through the click of a button.
Wine tastings may come as part of month-long programs set up by wineries to present the different varieties of product they offer, or they may also be single events for beginners.
Some exclusive tastings even feature celebrities. Rockstar Jon Bon Jovi recently serenaded guests as they sipped Hampton Water Rosé, the wine label he founded in 2018 with winemaker Gérard Bertrand. And singer John Legend also hosted a virtual event with Jean-Charles Boisset where they sampled wines from their collaboration, LVE Legend Vineyard Exclusive.
For big and small wineries facing declining visitors and business due to the coronavirus-related shutdowns, a virtual wine tasting can generate new sales and devotees. They can pour themselves a new online venture that can help keep them afloat while the uncertainty of the pandemic continues. For wine drinkers, it’s a way to uncork a new virtual experience with like-minded enthusiasts hoping for a distraction. Online wine tastings can also introduce you to wines you may not have known or tried before. A win-win for both sides of the spectrum.
So grab a glass, relax and check out an online tasting opportunity.
Sharing a bottle of wine is often a communal experience, even if you must do it behind a screen to keep practicing social distancing.