Virtual wine tasting on Zoom

A room with a Zoom

By Lauren Edwards

There are a lot of things that have become normal to us in the last year. I could never have imagined that words like quarantine, lockdown or herd immunity would form part of our everyday conversations, along with watching Boris give endless press conferences and why can’t someone please teach Chris Whitty to use his own clicker for his ‘next slide’.

However, it was the introduction of Zoom that has been the biggest game changer during this weird time (other than the vaccine and our incredible NHS of course). It has become a vital tool in our online world, helping us connect with our loved ones, take part in a live exercise class or join a work conference call (sitting in front of a bookcase is strongly recommended here).

For Valentines night, my friends and I decided to do a couples wine tasting evening on Zoom. Courtesy of Vintner and Mason’s, six sample bottles of wine were delivered to our doorsteps along with a platter of meat and different cheeses, which we almost ate in advance thinking it was just a nice gesture. Thankfully, we didn’t as the food later played an integral part in the tasting part of the evening.

We consisted of six couples, all in different households (natch). The evening started with a pre-party on Zoom where we sampled our Tesco/Aldi bought wine in preparation. Not really cleansing our palates but the plan was to start on the cheap plonk so that we could fully appreciate the finer wines afterwards. We were then joined by our host and wine expert Liam Burke who firstly talked us through each red wine, all French and very delicious. He explained which to pair with cheese or meat (or just cheese in my case as a non-meat eater). It was really interesting that one particular red wine, which at first tasted quite strong, when paired with a piece of stilton became much easier to drink. It appears that my usual pairing of Merlot and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk were not the desired grouping of a connoisseur like Liam.

We then moved onto the white wine, all Portuguese and very different. The first was slightly sparkling and to combat its slightly acidic taste, Liam instructed us to eat cherry tomatoes at the same time. This was a perfect combination of flavours and really helped the wine develop a smoother taste. Much nicer then our usual kettle crisps and Sauv Blanc combo. Liam clearly knew his stuff and was patient in answering our questions about how to choose a good wine in our local Tesco or how best to store it in the kitchen (not that wine stays unopened in our house for very long).

After Liam bid his farewell, perhaps we all should have as well. However, we instead decided to revert to our shop bought screw top wines at our after show party. Suffice to say, it was less sipping and more swigging which resulted in ‘guess the lie’ games and much hilarity. Our hangovers the following day were not as funny but the evening was well worth it. I would definitely recommend the online wine tasting evening. It was a good excuse to get a gang of mates together and a chance to learn something new.

If you are interested in taking part in an online wine tasting evening, pop along to the Vintner & Mason website for further details: Vintner and Mason | Wine tasting | England

We asked Liam to give us his top tips to help us mere mortals buy decent wine:

The price of vine to table
Bear in mind the hefty cost of having our wine cross borders. At least £2.60 of the price tag of your wine is spent on duty, brokerage fees and haulage. Therefore, a £5 bottle of plonk will land you with a drink to the value of around 80p. Whereas the £8 bottle will furnish your soirée with a wine that will ultimately value around £4. So, you get a a massive jump in quality for just a few pounds.

Read the label
The label will reveal a wealth of information and, if you know what to look for, will indicate the quality and value of the wine. In Italy, for example, a DOCG is the highest regarded accreditation a wine can achieve. This will be a blue label on the bottle neck. Whereas, in France, the appellation criteria is a little more complicated. So look at the label carefully for things like “Mise en bouteille au Château”. This will mean the wine maker has proudly staked his reputation on that product.

Cork or screw top?
The wine industry is a tough place to generate profit so it is a real luxury for a producer to choose things like a heavy bottle and corks rather than screw top. So with a nicely packaged bottle, you can be fairly confident that the product is of substantial quality.

And the winner is…
There are many well regarded award ceremonies taking place around the world in the wine industry. Therefore, if you are deciding between which wine to put in your trolley, it would be a safe bet to choose one with a award sticker on the bottle, because if a vineyard is showing off their trophy cabinet, they must have earnt it.
ouch this is going to hurt in the morning

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