Wine tasting goes virtual

Wine is intensely personal: You smell it with your own nose and taste it with your own mouth. And yet wine is most enjoyable when the experience is shared.

Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine, beer, or spirit that interests you. Compare prices, find the best bargains, and find vendors convenient to you. And that’s not all. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.

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These points never seemed to be in tension until a worldwide pandemic sent most of us scurrying to the safety of our homes, socially distancing from even friends and family until the contagion fades or a vaccine becomes widely available.

Suddenly we are isolating at home, and I hope you have plenty of wine available in your wine rack or cellar, or handy wine delivery services nearby. But the social aspect is dropping sharply as we are limited to sharing it with spouse, partner, or live-in friend.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But larger group tastings, with an array of interesting wines shared around the table for conversation and analysis, add a dimension to the experience that’s harder to have right now. Even if you could join friends at a distance around an outdoor table, drinking through a mask really dilutes the experience.

But the wine-geek community quickly came up with a workaround, thanks to technology. Many of us have been typing words about wine on online forums for years. Our WineLovers Discussion Group goes back to 1995, and the old CompuServe Wine Forum got us started in 1985, long before social media entered the picture.

Then the pandemic added a new wrinkle with virtual meetings that made it possible for groups to get together with real-time video and sound. Yes, Skype and Google Hangouts, among others, had been around for a long time and had their fans. But when Zoom appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Founded in 2011 but not widely known, Zoom went viral overnight in the pandemic. Daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December, and Zoom became the top free app download in the Apple Store, CNBC reported.

It didn’t take wine enthusiasts long to take advantage of Zoom to interact with the wine world, for enjoyment, education, and buying wine.

“I have used Zoom for both casual wine tasting/discussion and opportunities to interact with winemakers on a one-on-one and group basis,” WineLovers moderator David Bueker said in a recent post. “The opportunity to interact with winemakers in California, Oregon, Champagne and Germany has been something I could never have done without extensive travel. While I previously knew some of the winemakers, others were only familiar through purchases, and the occasional email. I had ample opportunity to ask questions, and learned a great deal from the winemakers’ presentations, as well as other participant questions. It’s been fun, informative and a truly bright spot in the midst of a lot of gloom.”

Bouchaine Winery offers extensive virtual visits with wine maker face time, for a fee.

Bouchaine Winery offers extensive virtual visits with wine maker face time, for a fee.

How do you find those opportunities? They are as close as your nearby Internet. A quick Google search revealed, for example, a fascinating virtual tasting at a local wine shop. The staff at The Wine Rack in Louisville posted an announcement of its May 9 gathering via Facebook Live: “Who’s ready for an Aquitaine Wine live Zoom tasting? Here are the details: We all get together virtually and do an online tasting! You may have to be home but that doesn’t mean you have to miss this very special Wine Rack tasting. The amazing Veronique Barthe from Chateau La Freynelle in Bordeaux will be live with us, the estate has been is in her family since 1789.” Needless to say, viewers were welcome to pre-order the wines tasted for curbside pickup or delivery.

Wineries and wine makers are getting into the virtual tasting act, too. In a Wine Enthusiast article, writer Kelly A. Magyarics wrote, “… the same way grafted vines adapt to suit their new terroir, wineries are pivoting to accommodate a new reality. Sextant Wines is among the increasing number of producers reaching consumers through an innovative method: the virtual tasting.”

“Wine is about gathering people, pulling a cork and enjoying the company,” says Chris Blake, director of sales for Sextant. “We missed that interaction and began to brainstorm ways to create that feeling.” Each week they offer a three-bottle kit, and host a live tasting of the wines on Zoom. Everyone is invited, regardless if they’ve purchased the kit or just want to follow along. Blake hopes it provides much-needed connectivity and escapism.

The article went on to list dozens of other virtual tasting and education opportunities, with links.

Do you miss winery visits and tastings? You don’t have to travel to wine country for a virtual visit! Here’s an article in the San Jose Mercury-News listing fifty virtual wine tastings during May.

To find virtual tastings, the Internet search engines are your friend. A simple Google search for “virtual wine tastings” turns up plenty of resources. Or look up your favorite wine shop or winery in a search engine or social media and see what pops up. For instance, here’s Andretti Winery’s Facebook Live tasting.

Or, of course, just check in with your friends and set up your own virtual tasting! The basic Zoom app is free, and easy to set up and learn. You’ve probably read about Zoom’s publicized security issues, but they’re working on that, and following Zoom’s simple best practices and keeping your app updated should protect you from Zoombomber pranksters.

Have you been virtual tasting with friends or visiting wine shops, tasting rooms, and vineyards via computer? Tell us about it! Join this conversation on the WineLovers Forum.

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Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Today’s Tasting Report

Domaine des Foudres

Domaine des Foudres 2018 Moulin à Vent ($19.99)

This 100 percent Gamay from the Beaujolais Cru Moulin à Vent is a dark reddish-purple color, shading to a narrow garnet edge. Its aroma is pleasant but seems a bit closed at first; swirling in the glass brings up good black-plum, mixed berry, and appealing earthy mineral notes of damp clay. Tart plums and berries fill the mouth, shaped by zippy fresh-fruit acidity and light, gently astringent tannins. It’s on the rustic side, but certainly approachable at 13.5% alcohol; a good wine that many may find better suited for enjoying with food than sipping alone. U.S. importer: Boutinot USA Inc., Sanford, Fla. (May 9, 2020)

FOOD MATCH: The back label suggests “seared sausages, steak, or some tasty pasta.” Steak would definitely work; we roasted a couple of Beyond Meat sausages with asparagus, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and garlic and fashioned it into a risotto, which made an absolutely delightful match.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s fine for drinking now, but its structure and taint-free Diam cork should ensure enjoyment, and some possible evolution, over at least the next three to five years under good cellar conditions.

It’s a good top-end Beaujolais, and my local $20 price seems fair.’s $25 average U.S. retail is high, but may be based on limited sources.

Here’s an importer fact sheet for Domaine des Foudres Moulin à Vent.

Check prices and find vendors for Domaine des Foudres Moulin à Vent on; unfortunately, Wine-Searcher is showing only a few vendors for this wine.

Check this Wine-Searcher link to find information and listings for a wide variety of Moulin à Vent.

Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation, GaMAY, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • La Vieille Ferme Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)
  • La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
  • Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
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