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Wine Tasting Online – A Real Taste for Learning.
Guest Feature by Luisa Welch:
As the country went into lockdown and many businesses shut their doors, another door opened for those with a little entrepreneurial spirit: move your business online.
But how do you taste wine online? This was the dilemma I faced when suddenly I found myself with no venue to hold my regular wine tasting events and classes. As an independent wine educator, international wine judge and wine writer, I use several London-wide venues, and I have three regular groups in the North London areas of Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Hornsey.
There was a sense of despair when I visited the local supermarket at the end of March – every shelf was bare, including the wine shelves. The spirit of entrepreneurship was, however, alive and well, and many shops geared themselves up to offer a delivery service in no time at all, whilst little by little, supermarkets shelves were fully stocked again.
Whilst talking to people on Skype, and having just learnt about Zoom – the easy-to-use meeting platform which seems to have become ‘part of the family’ – I had the idea of moving my own business online too. I invited my class participants to join me online. Our first meeting was a discussion on wine, but soon we were able to move our tastings from virtual to real.
Setting an easy theme, participants provided their own bottle by shopping where possible or having it delivered by a professional delivery service or by a kind neighbour. And we were off.
My first tasting focused on ‘Chardonnay in the World’ exploring the wines this versatile, international grape variety produces in classic countries such as France or Italy, as well as in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and in Eastern Europe of course. We sipped our own individual choice of wine and shared in the comments of everyone else’s. What a rich experience! I then circulated a list of the wines tasted. Subsequently, I organised an Italian-focused tasting with a ‘Tour of the Italian Vineyards’ and the latest tasting was ‘Spotlight on Spain’. I was bowled over to see that everyone made an effort to get something a little unusual, thinking outside the box as I had been teaching them to do, and brought some real unusual gems to the ‘party’.
The tastings on Zoom might be virtual, but what’s in the glass is very real!
Doing my part for the local community, some events are offered at cost for members of the U3A (University of the Third Age) the nation-wide association with charity status for older people, with over 1,000 local branches and with around 450,000 members. At retirement age, to keep active and keep on meeting people, members choose to learn a new skill, from playing an instrument to exploring the countryside, and skills such as learning about wine are in high demand.
For the U3A members, my aim is to ensure that older people who might be on their own, or in need of isolating and not able to see their families, continue to have a lifeline, a group with a shared interest that they can meet with on a regular basis, and some ‘homework’ to do in between tastings, to keep them active, interested, and looking forward to the next tasting.
The same principle applies to my own groups. There are only so many ‘chats’ one can have in a day, but setting time aside to learn a new skill, especially one that gives you pleasure and it’s so much fun, and it’s also expertly guided, it enriches your life. I am now working on the next stage, which is to organise a delivery of wine to the participants so that we can all taste the same wine together. When I resume my wine tastings after the lockdown, I expect there will be a new bunch of wine experts out there!
Luisa Welch is an independent wine educator, international wine judge and wine writer. For future wine tasting events, online or face to face, contact firstname.lastname@example.org