What is a virtual wine tasting is still a common question for winelovers around the world. Traditional wine tastings have been growing in popularity over the last 10 years. And this trend continues as more and more wineries have started to offer dedicated wine tours and visits. Wine tourism grew year on year and wine tastings became a firm favourite on weekend trips.
Then in 2020 the world was turned upside down by COVID. Wine tourism was hit especially hard. Wineries with supermarket distribution boomed during furlough, due to more people drinking at home. However, many wineries only supply to restaurants and specialist wine sellers. To make matter worse, their wine visits and tastings were also stopped.
But behind every cloud is a silver lining.. April 2020 saw Google Trends listing virtual wine tasting as a breakaway search term. People started to search for online wine tasting in Napa Valley, Rioja, South Africa and Ribera del Duero. Wherever there was good wine then people started to search for how to taste it.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the wineries and sommeliers to take notice and before long a whole host of live tasting sessions started to pop up on Instagram chat and FB live. Napa Valley were amongst the first wine experts to offer their clients online wine tours and wine makers around the world soon started to carry out their tasting with distributors via Zoom. Wine tastings on Zoom suddenly became a term that we could all understand, which is amazing considering that most of us had never even heard of Zoom in February 2020.
One of the founders of TastingIN, Giorgia Mariani, had been preparing a special intimate wine tasting for months. The winemaking legend Jesus Madrazo, who spent years at the head of Cune wines, was going to present a tasting of 5 wines that could be found along the Santiago Way in Northern Spain. The event was sold out and was to be held in a dramatic 15th-century wine cellar. The date was set for the 13th March 2020 and was of course cancelled. The rest is history and TastingIN was born to provide foodies and winelovers a place to find great wine tasting online.
At first we started with private virtual wine tasting and our first clients were wine buffs who were used to the traditional tasting room experiences. But quickly afterwards we started to see that our best memories and best wine experiences are social events. People wanted to share a unique wine experience with friends at the same time. One of the first common questions was, will I get wine delivered to my door? And our answer was yes.
The next common question was if we could deliver the wine to different addresses and enjoy the tasting together and could we send the wines to a different country and our answer was yes again.
More and more we could see that people missed meeting friends and sharing a great wine together and more and more groups wanted to have a private online tasting but others wanted to attend an event with other people.
So we then incorporated virtual wine tasting events which a held on a specific date and time. One point to make here is that it is important to plan ahead for wine tasting events because you need to leave time for the bottles to be delivered to your home before the event.
Then in November 2020 we were overwhelmed with requests for quotes for corporate wine tastings. We are all now used to virtual business meetings on Zoom and Teams but it soon became obvious that we are social animals in our free time and at work as well. Companies needed a new way to do teambuilding and to wind down together after a hard week or to celebrate a new deal.
Therefore, it wasn’t long before we started to organize virtual corporate wine tasting for companies with big remote teams spread across countries and continents. Feedback from the teams was so good that companies wanted to try different wine tastings for business but only wines. We’ve now organised wine and cheese tastings, chocolate tastings, online beer tasting, gin tasting and champagne tastings.
Like every thing in life, things evolve and what started as traditional tastings branched into online wine experiences such as painting with wine, virtual online wine escape rooms and showcooking with wine trivia quizzes and tips on how to organize a virtual wine tasting party.
We often get asked if we think wine tasting online is here to stay or if it is just a fad during COVID lockdowns. Of course, we like everyone, want to get back out and visit the best wineries and wine tastings in situ. We will soon be launching the option to choose from the best wine experiences and wine tours but we firmly believe virtual tastings are here to stay.
We are lucky enough to live in one of the world’s most famous wine growing regions, La Rioja and we have access to over 600 bodegas within an hour of our house. Not to mention wine tasting in Ribera del Duero just over an hour away and fantastic Catalan wine not too far away. But we’re lucky and many of our wineloving clients don’t live in wine growing regions and want to try new wines, learn something and discover a world of taste all year round and not just on holiday. Families and friends are evermore spread around the globe but we still love the opportunity to meet up online.
On the business front, then virtual is here to stay. Companies have seen the enormous benefits of working with flexible remote teams, one of which being the positive environmental impact of working from home. Large companies such as Amazon and Facebook have announced that virtual teams are here to stay with Facebook and Microsoft commiting to 50% of its future teams working from home. Google has recently announced a hybrid model and Shopify’s staff will be 100% remote.