Normally, I don’t write articles like the one that you’re about to read. I prefer the über-niche, unsung, bit-more-geeky stuff here on 1WineDude. But considering that most of us are home-bound during this time of Coronavirus, and that I just published a book (well, two books, actually!) directly related to putting wine in your mouth and organizing wine tastings, it seemed like the right time to tackle the whole How The Heck Do I Pull Off a Virtual Wine Tasting With Friends? topic.
First things first: Don’t sweat it
I’ll start with the most important bit of advice that I can give on organizing a virtual wine tasting, and work backwards into the specifics from there: chill out, folks. If you’re worrying about how to pull off a virtual wine tasting, you’re already overthinking it. The wine market is already way ahead of you on this, and has done most of the heavy-lifting for you. It has never been easier (or cheaper) to pull off a wine tasting without actually leaving your house. Seriously, relax. Focus on learning and having fun, the rest of it really is just small stuff, not to be sweated too much. I’ve done so many of these virtual tastings during Shelter-in-Place (most of them organized directly for media folks like me), and none of them have been even remotely (ha-ha!) difficult. In fact, the most trying aspect is remembering when and how to mute/unmute yourself during the video call.
Option #1: Leave the heavy lifting to someone else
If you’re less inclined to bother with specifics, and are ok with spending more of your hard-earned cash in exchange for convenience, you can simply organize some like-minded friends and all sign up for one of the ever-increasing virtual tasting opportunities being offered by wineries and wine brands directly. You sign-up, pay, and they effectively handle the rest, sending you the wines, organizing the video chat, and walking you through a tasting. The downside is that you’re likely limited to only that brand’s wines, and will have to pay a bit more for their time. But otherwise, there’s very little downside to this fun and buzz-inducing experience (and they only thing you have to worry about is dragging your butt to bed later if you’ve over-indulged).
Option #2: Do it yourself
Pick a theme, and get The Guide
This is a lot easier than it at first might sound. You’ll want to pick a theme for your tasting and have a guide as to how to organize the lineup of wines in terms of tasting order and general set-up. Somewhat shamelessly, I’ll recommend that you pick up my book, which has done a lot of the hard work in choosing wines for you, with 30 themed tastings in it (all indexed – hey, it’s an inexpensive way to get a serious head-start there!). Additionally, the entire 5th chapter deals exclusively with how to plan and organize your own wine tastings. When going virtual, you need only have to have all of the participants roughly follow the same rules (importantly, the tasting order). Worried about the vocabulary you might have to tap into during the actual tasting? Well, I’ve got a book for that, too. The point is, you have a lot of resources to assist with this.
Get the wines
The best way to get the same wines to everyone? Give everyone the same shopping list, and have them check a website such as Wine Searcher to find the best combination of retailers and prices. Many will deliver directly to your door, depending on where you live; it doesn’t get much easier than that.
Sign up for a video meeting service, and organize the date/time for your tasting session. In 2020, you will almost certainly be using Zoom, the video service that has just about cornered the virtual meeting market during Cornavirus. If you’re one of the 20 or so people who’ve yet to use, there are no shortage of handy primers available online for how to set it up and get started. As a matter of perspective, during her first ever Zoom call my mother (in her 70s), without any assistance, went from not understanding how to start her video feed during a multi-person Zoom call to effectively utilizing her phone for the video stream and her laptop for the audio stream separately, to make up for the limited bandwidth provided by her aging DSL connection. You’ll be fine.
Hope this helps! Cheers!