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How to host your own online wine tasting

It’s not an easy time right now, for anyone, and while the coronavirus pandemic may be dominating every aspect of our lives, it needn’t get in the way of enjoying a sociable glass of wine with friends and family.

Times are tough. But we have been thinking about ways to raise your spirits, and so have devised the drinks business at home (and online) wine tasting kit.

The kit can be used together, in more normal times, but also online, making it particularly useful during this abnormal period to keep connected with friends, and wine, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This is merely a guide to hosting your own wine tasting party, and we hope you will get some fun out of gathering your friends online with a glass or two and some nibbles, while keeping your wine mind sharp and your trivia game strong.

Follow our simple steps to get the most out of an online wine tasting over the following pages, using our tasting mat and sheet as a guide.

If you decide to host a tasting, please let us know! Tag us with #dbwinetasting on Instagram @thedrinksbusiness, Twitter @teamdb or Facebook.

Click through for our guide to hosting your own (online) wine tasting…

You can download the drinks business wine tasting kit here:

DB wine tasting mat

DB wine tasting sheet

1. Select your wines

Your choices could depend upon whether you are hosting at home or online. In either case, choose a minimum of five wines and a theme. This could be by origin, style, variety or vintage. For example, pick five wines from Chile, or perhaps five of the same variety, say five Malbec’s from Argentina. Or focus on variety and choose five Chardonnays, each from a different country. Perhaps you want to get to grips with sparkling, so present a selection of fizz from France, Italy or England? Maybe Sherry is your bag? A vertical tasting of wine from a single Bordeaux chateau could go down well if you have the stocks. Let your imagination guide you.

If hosting a tasting online, make sure everyone can get hold of the same wines. Order your wines from a retailer still operating deliveries, or, if you stick to one major supermarket, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for each participant to pick up a universal selection while making your trip out for other essentials.

2. Get online

If you are hosting a tasting online, it’s time to get to grips with your tech. Make sure all your attendees are able to use the same video conferencing software.

Try Zoom, which is free and offers basic users unlimited 40 minute meetings. Houseparty is another which has exploded as of late. It’s an app whereby multiple users can join and chat together easily for an unlimited time frame, and play games. There are many others, including favourites like FaceTime and WhatsApp, however the latter only allows for up to four participants.

Set a date and invite your fellow oenophiles! I reckon most people’s diaries are pretty open right now…

3. Set up the tasting

You can download the drinks business online wine tasting kit here and here. It consists of a numbered tasting mat and tasting sheet, which also serves as a score sheet.

Pop it in an A4 plastic wallet to prevent spillages spoiling it. These are in pdf format and can be downloaded and emailed to your fellow wine tasters to print out before the tasting.

4. Supplies

Get your basics in order. Glasses, spittoon, corkscrew, pen. Fairly self explanatory.

As host, it can also be worth digging out the ‘official’ tasting notes to your wines from the producer. Most are available online and can prove helpful in comparing, contrasting and guiding your guests to the appropriate information.

5. Food pairings

For the full bells and whistles wine tasting experience, why not suggest some food pairings with your selected wines? Nothing gets a party started like snacks, so have a think about what treats might pair well with the wines you are tasting.

Fiona Beckett’s Matching Food and Wine site is great for endless inspiration. Click here to peruse her suggestions.

6. Blind vs open tasting?

Decide if you are going to taste the wines blind or open. This could vary depending on where you are hosting the tasting. It’s far easier to serve wines blind in your own home in one location than online. If this is the case, bag your bottles, or another suitable covering, and label one to five before pouring. Get each participant to take a stab at the vintage, variety and origin. There are 20 points across all three (see tasting sheet), and a further 10 for any bonus trivia! (see next slide).

If hosting online, perhaps rope in an observer to mix up your bottles and present them in a way that you might know what the wines are, but not the order in which they will be tasted. This will have to be co-ordinated across all participants, however. If that seems like too much of a logistical headache, taste the wines open, and simply have a good old chat about them. You can still win points by employing some quick fire rounds of trivia between each wine.

7. Bonus trivia!

Who doesn’t love a pub quiz? Add some trivia to your tasting with a bonus question between each round of tasting. It doesn’t have to be about wine. If you get one right, give yourself two points. Here are some example questions, answers not provided, to get you started:

Why is the standard wine bottle 75cl?

What does the French winemaking term remontage mean?

Which monk played a key hand in the invention of Champagne?

8. Taste, tally and share!

And finally, get stuck in! Make it your own, enjoy your wines, wax lyrical about their bouquet, tally your scores and crown the winners. Tasting can be academic, but the best thing about wine is drinking it, and a drink at the end of the day right now has never been more welcome.

The drinks trade is resilient and will bounce back in time, but everyone, and particularly the hospitality trade, will need our support more than ever in the months ahead. If you hosted a tasting and enjoyed a wine, let your merchant or producer know! A little positivity can go a long way.

Tag your picture with #dbwinetasting on social media.

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