Bars and restaurants are reopening at different rates across the country, and not everyone is ready to dine indoors. However, people want new ways to come together, where they can recreate cherished experiences with friends and family without putting anyone at risk. A virtual wine tasting could be the pandemic-friendly event you're missing out on. Here's what you need to know about hosting one.
Pick the Right Wines
The best wine tastings are organized around a theme and take participants on a journey - something we're all missing out on in these times. A classic approach is a "wine around the world" event, where you serve four to six expressions of the same grape varietal. Sip a Cabernet Sauvignon from France, one from California, one from Chile, and one from Australia, and you've gone around the world in four glasses.
It's also fun to dive deep into a specific wine growing country or region. If you're theming the tasting around Chilean wines, you can evaluate the terroir (fancy wine speak for the earthy qualities) of the grapes and how that's expressed in whites versus reds. You can build a tasting around the best Chilean wines, for instance, by including a Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec.
With a virtual wine tasting, everyone will need their own wine, glasses, and tasting sheet. Focus on wines that are easy to get at the local liquor store or via online ordering; this isn't the occasion to savor a hard-to-find vintage or varietal. Word to the wise: keep wines at affordable price points to make your virtual wine tasting accessible to all of your friends and family members.
Schedule the Tasting
Scheduling too many people can become a headache, so keep the group select - you can always do a second round with another group. Evening times work well, but be mindful of your guests that have small children with bedtimes.
Once you have a time and date, set up a virtual meeting. Zoom is a popular meeting technology, but free meetings are limited to 40 minutes. iPhone users can connect to up to 32 individuals on a FaceTime group call. Houseparty is a free group video chat app that can host up to eight people per "room." While each of these apps is pretty intuitive, save time for a dry run if you've not hosted a meeting before. When you know how to host a virtual event in the app of your choosing, everything will run smoother. You're less likely to press a wrong button and accidentally mute everyone, for instance.
Sip and Savor
Before the virtual wine tasting begins, pour yourself some wine, and gather your notepad. As the leader, you might want a cheat sheet nearby - something that lists out the flavors found in each of the wines you'll be tasting or explains more about the wine producer's history and distinctions. You don't want to go on and on about each wine (unless you're wine tasting with somms in training, that is), but you do want to enrich the wine-tasting experience. When you can enrich people's experience of the wines with a kernel of knowledge, the tasting becomes more memorable for your guests.
Sign onto your meeting app at the appointed time, then take charge of the tasting using the information you've gathered. At its simplest, everyone will take a sip of glass #1, then talk about what they taste. The tasting should always move from whites to reds and from the lightest wine to the richest. If you start with a heavy red, your tongue will be so coated with the tannins in the wine that you won't be able to pick up the notes in a light Sauvignon Blanc.
Ultimately, the virtual event is a chance to connect and come together. Conversation may drift from wine to other topics. Go with the flow. At the end of the day, one of the best things about wine is the way each glass brings people together.