How to Host a Virtual Wine Tasting
Have you ever drank a glass of wine and not even thought about the taste of it? Did you like it or do you even remember it? What kind of wine do you like? You might host a virtual wine tasting to help refine your palate.
Maybe you fall into the category of “I don’t drink red wine” or “I only like sweet wine”. Maybe you know what you like and what you don’t, but you cannot really identify or describe it.
One way to refine your palate and start an inventory of “snapshots” of wine you like is to go to wine tastings. Or hold one yourself!
Before social distancing, wine stores, wineries and some grocery stores would allow you to taste several wines at a time to sample their wares and maybe find something new.
Wine tastings provide a good opportunity to increase the pleasure of drinking wine by exploring it more intently and developing your palate.A Thought
As the stores and most wineries are not currently available to help with this, you can host your own Wine Tasting. Make it more fun and interesting by inviting friends to join you! Do it in person or host a virtual wine tasting.
Have you begun to notice that engagement with the outside world makes us more interesting and provides a richer life than being isolated? This isn’t just screen time deleting emails and being distracted by those amazingly creative people who make Dollar Tree décor and MacGyver DIY videos. Who knew you could make an Easter Bunny out of a hanger and some moss? Boy can those steal my time!
Break up the monotony of You Tube and contact your friends about your Virtual Wine Tasting. This will give you something to discuss rather than recapping the news or debating the toilet paper shortage. And it will get you out of the house, at least virtually.
With social distancing becoming the new, and hopefully temporary, normal, folks are finding ways to connect on Zoom or Google Hangouts or Skype. Happy hours and social interaction are still taking place, but screen to screen. When you try it, be patient with the quality of your connection as LOTS of folks are interacting this way, so the internet is pretty busy.
Your Virtual Wine Tasting.
First, email, or better yet, call your friends and tell them your idea. Invite them to share in the experience and expand on your thoughts.
Second, choose your wines. Are you interested in white, red, rose, sparkling or sweet? Do you want to try a new chardonnay or explore the world of dry roses?
Pick at least two from the same category to compare, then, refine your selection. You can refine your selection by choosing an old world wine to compare with a new world one. Compare regions like California and Texas or Oregon or your local area, if your stores carry a good selection of local wines.
For our first Virtual Wine Tasting, I picked the Sauvignon Blanc varietal. Summer is here and this varietal is typically a good porch sipper. I chose one from Australia, the king of great Sauv Blancs, and one from California that I had not yet tried.
Next time you are in your grocery or large national chain wine store, shop for wines that have plenty of inventory. This way it should be accessible to your friends. If they cannot find the same wines, especially if your friends are not local, then have them choose the same varietal to taste and share notes.
Third, gather your materials for the tasting. You’ll want pens and paper for notes or you can fill out the form below and the tasting notes will be emailed right into your inbox.
You will need two glasses per person, one for each wine. Make sure the glass is large enough to swirl the wine and you can get a good sniff of it.
Have some plain crackers on hand to help the cleanse your palate in between the wines. Oyster crackers are best, but Carr’s plain water crackers also work. Try to stay away from saltines or flavored crackers as these can influence your taste.
Fourth, connect online. For the connection, I explored Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and House Party. (Now I am probably the least computer tech capable person around, so if I can use it pretty much anyone can.) They all seemed pretty easy to use and are free. Google Hangouts requires a Google account. Skype and House Party need to be downloaded after signing up. Zoom has a maximum 40 minute use time unless you pay for the upgrade.
Fifth, enjoy the wine tasting experience! Once everyone is gathered together, start your tasting! Feel free to discuss your impressions, but also note how your friends are experiencing the wine. If someone simply does not like the wine, try to get them to explain what flavor, smell or other factors they find off-putting. This may help others better define the wine they are experiencing.
Remember, it is okay if some or all of your Wine Tasting participants don’t like the wine. What constitutes good or bad wine is a very personal thing and, again, there are NO WRONG ANSWERS!
I like to compile everyone’s notes and file them for future reference – especially if I find out a future dinner guest doesn’t care for a particular wine.
Helpful Tasting Guidelines
Open and pour your first wine, but just a splash in each glass. About a finger width of wine should do it. This leaves you room for the swirl.
Carefully, but with intent, you’ll want to swirl the wine to see the color and aerate it a bit. This helps it open up so you can taste and smell more qualities of the wine. The easiest way is to set your glass on a surface and hold it by the base or stem. Make quick small circles to swirl the wine.
Do not swirl any sparkling. You’ll kill the bubbles.
You can check the legs if you like. Legs are the streaks or lines of wine running down the inside of the glass after you swirl. The idea is that legs equate to alcohol in the wine, so more legs means higher alcohol.
Note the color in the middle and at the rim of the top of the wine. Is it cloudy, clear, dark, light, plum, garnet, red, orange, pink, honey or egg white? Pick a color of your own to describe it. White paper behind the glass can help you see the color without background influence.
You cannot taste wine without smelling it. Stick your nose way down in the glass and take a couple of short quick sniffs. Like a dog sniffing. This will maximize the aromas.
Please don’t stop at “I smell alcohol and grapes”. Be curious.
Do you smell fruits, vegetables or flowers? Can you detect grains or spices? Are there woodsy, earthy or barrel aromas? In some reds, you might smell chocolate or coffee or tobacco. It may sound off putting, but animal, think barnyard, and earth are sometimes detected. If you cannot name what you smell, try describing it with curiosity and maybe it will come to you.
The taste of a wine is made up of aroma, body, texture and flavor. Don’t be alarmed at the first sip. The first few sips can be fairly abrupt on the palate because your mouth has to adapt the acid and alcohol in the wine.
Take a few small sips. Then hold one and roll it around. If you can, hold the sip and inhale through your nose. Do you smell and taste anything different?
The mouth feel is the body. Does the wine feel like skim, whole milk or cream? Does it remind you of material like flannel or silk? How easily does it slide down your throat or does it coat your tongue?
I often say Mourvedre is like velvet on my tongue.
Flavor is incredibly complex because a great deal depends on your background. There are four basics of flavor including sweet, salt, bitter and sour. However, salt is rarely a flavor found in wine.
Don’t be frustrated if at first it “tastes like wine”. Imagine the flavors. Check out the tasting notes for ideas and fill in some of your own as you identify them. There really are no wrong answers as wine is an incredibly personal experience.
Now try the second wine using the same process. Eat a cracker and then splash, swirl, sniff, sip and savor.
Take three sips of your second wine before passing judgment. The first sip is not reliable as your taste buds will be influenced by the previous wine and cracker. The second sip is to clear the previous flavors some more. The third sip should be closer to the true flavors of the second wine.
There really are no “rules” to wine tasting. Be creative and free to express whatever you taste and smell! Have fun with it. No snobbery required.
You could go the rest of your life drinking “what you like and not what you don’t”. But why not have a ricer experience with wine? Develop your palate; explore and be curious and creative with your wine experiences. Capture some flavor snapshots you can use in the future to find more wines you will enjoy.
You don’t have to be a sommelier to appreciate wine. But, becoming a deliberate taster will make any wine experience more pleasurable.
P.S. If you found this helpful, let your friends know about it! Share on email or on Pinterest or Instagram via one of the share buttons.
Don J Hanle
I have enjoyed watching you do this so many times that the image of you reappeared as I read about each step. Hard to beat a good (good is personal right) Chard, Cabernet Sauvignon and high quality Port after dinner.
This sounds really fun! Thanks for adding the Tasting Notes. It will make my grocery store wine picks sound more eloquent.
Thank you, Sherri! Virtual tastings are an enjoyable way to share wine with friends old and new. Cheers! Rani
Great wine tasting notes!