It has always been true that the best way to learn about wine is to taste it — as broadly and as often as possible. The hallmarks of a good wine tasting are: wines suitable for comparison, a knowledgeable oenophile leading the way, and your own thirst for learning more about wine.
Whatever your preferred venue for tasting was before the pandemic, your options are limited by social-distancing concerns these days. Being a creative bunch, the wine world has adapted to COVID-19 as best it can, by moving the wine tasting experience online — a task the Internet is well-suited to.
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As avid wine tasting adventurers, my husband and I always look forward to our in-person journeys to wineries (for us, that’s mostly Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County).
Wine-soaked trips down winding roads dappled with sun streaming through native oak trees is a cure for all that ails us. At least some of the experience translates well to the Internet — carefully selected wines, curated for learning specific wine lessons, and a guide to help us interpret what we’re tasting.
Who offers online wine tasting?
Many many wineries have started doing online wine tastings for their wine club members and interested wine lovers. This is a great way for us to learn about a winery’s new releases since we can’t be there to try them in person.
The tourism boards of wine regions, wine conference organizers, wine magazines, and wine stores are also offering virtual wine tastings during COVID-19. There is almost no excuse, if you’re a wine lover, not to try one of these online tastings — even if you only just watch and listen.
How are wine tastings conducted online?
Online wine tastings can be broken down into three kinds:
- Public wine tastings that are held live, like webinars or Zoom calls.
- Private and Group wine tastings that are held live, like webinars or Zoom calls.
- Tastings that are pre-recorded and available on demand via YouTube or other services.
You are in control of your wine tasting experience — this means you should prepare adequately for it. If you'll be drinking along, here are some tips for having a great at-home wine tasting experience.
- Order the wine so it is delivered at least 7 days before the tasting (if you can). Wine gets bumped around during shipping and can taste off for a few days after it arrives. You also want to give it a chance to reach the proper temperature.
- If you're drinking a wine that should be decanted — specifically young reds and full-bodied whites — open the wine and decant it 30-60 minutes before your schedule tasting will begin.
- If you have enough wine glasses, prepare one glass for each wine you'll be tasting, per person. I recommend pouring the wine before the tasting begins, too.
- Set up shop somewhere comfortable, make the lighting nice, have some appropriately paired snacks on hand (or simple crackers) to enhance the experience.
Live Wine Tasting Events for the Public
One-time tastings can be held like large in-person events — you pre-register and order your wines in advance to taste along with the group leader and other attendees. These events are often led by winemakers, winery owners, sommeliers, and other knowledgeable wine industry professionals. As some wineries don’t employ particularly knowledgeable tasting room staff, this is one way in which online wine tastings are superior to in-person tasting.
Here are upcoming virtual tastings we think you should know about!
We don't not know of any currently scheduled live virtual tastings. We post good events here as they come up.
Private Live Wine Tasting Events
An alternative form of one-time wine tastings is “by appointment only.” Many exclusive and high-end wineries only offer wine tastings by appointment during normal times; during COVID-19 any wineries fortunate enough to stay open have mostly conducted in-person and virtual tastings by appointment. The online analog to this experience is to buy wine from a company which includes a free, professionally-led, live wine tasting that can be scheduled at your convenience and include several people (make it a party!) or just you.
Here are companies where you can buy wine and schedule personal online wine tastings.
In Good Taste
This wine store offers 6oz pours of different wines and full-size bottles are available to purchase more of what you love. They have two tasting kits available right now (details below). You can either join a public tasting event with your kit or, if you can organize a group (you must order at least 6 kits), you can have private tasting just for you and your friends.
Their Wild Child flight contains eight bottles from around California including a mix of red, white, and rosé. Grapes as diverse as Dolcetto and Viognier represent regions from Russian River Valley to Napa Valley to Paso Robles and beyond.
Their newest flight is called “United Grapes of America” and is the first time we’ve seen a company purposely show off some of the country’s lesser-known regions — New York, Texas, Virginia, and Arizona show up alongside Washington, Oregon, and California. Too bad they missed out on Idaho!
Yahyn is a wine-buying platform like Vivino, a terrific selection of premium wineries list their wine on the site for sale. Your wine will come from different stores and wineries, not all from one warehouse. What sets them apart from Vivino is their Virtual Tastings program. You can order one shipment of wine (no need to get your friends involved) and schedule a private tasting.
J. Cage Cellars focuses mostly on Pinot Noir from various Sonoma County AVAs. They offer these four wine tasting experiences via Yahyn. All prices include wine and hosted tasting event.
All Four Red Taste the unique differences in terrior in three Single-Vineyard Pinot Noirs plus the Craftsman's Proprietary Red Blend. $185 at Yahyn.com.
Four Mixed Experience the diversity of J. Cage with a virtual tasting of these four wines: Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Craftsman's Red Blend. $157 at Yahyn.com.
Pinot Exploration An of Pinot Noir across the myriad terroir of Sonoma County. All three J. Cage Gold Medal 2017 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. $147 at Yahyn.com.
Three’s Company An introduction to the hand-crafted wines of J. Cage Cellars. Enjoy: single-vineyard Chardonnay, single-vineyard Pinot Noir, and their Craftsman's Red Blend. $122 at Yahyn.com.
Skipstone "Cult" California Discover how Skipstone has built their amazing reputation by sampling these wines: 2018 Skipstone Viognier, 2018 Skipstone Preface Proprietary Red, 2016 Skipstone Oliver's Blend. $299 at Yahyn.com.
Priority Wine Pass (Winery Tastings)
If you want to try a wine tasting with a winery, Priority Wine Pass has made it super easy to find a suitable tasting for you. You’ll tell them how much you want to spend on the wine and which state it will be shipped to, and they’ll show you a selection of wineries to choose from.
Note: These are intended to be group experiences with at least two tasting groups … so you’ll need to find friends who also want to taste with you online. It’s really fun to get your friends together for online wine tastings!
Browse Priority Wine Pass Virtual Tastings by the states you'll need to ship wine to and how much you want to spend per household on the wine itself (the tasting events are included).
On-Demand Wine Tasting Videos
Sometimes large, one-time tastings are recorded so they can be viewed on demand. They’re incredibly useful if you’re not available when a tasting is conducted live.
Some wine clubs do a great job of offering on-demand wine tasting online — Roscioli Italian Wine Club and Wine Access come to mind as exceptional sources for wine education tied to a specific bottle of wine. These videos include background about the wines and wineries, in addition to a discussion while tasting the wine.
Wine.com has invested a lot of time in creating wine tasting events and recording them for future viewing. Here is a selection to shop and taste:
Tour of Italy Wine Sampler Set with Online Wine Tasting
Six bottle Italian wine tasting of Italy's top regions & stylesBuy it for $179.99
Biodynamic Duo Wine Sampler with Online Wine Tasting
Three bottle wine tasting with famed French winemakersBuy it for $85.00
Vanderpump Wine Trio with Online Wine Tasting
Three bottle wine tasting with Lisa Vanderpump & daughter PandoraBuy it for $64.99
Kendall-Jackson Wine Sampler Set with Online Wine Tasting
Three bottle wine tasting with Kendall Jackson winemakersBuy it for $53.99
Still & Sparkling Rosé by John Legend & Jean-Charles Boisset
Enjoy a pre-recorded Virtual Wine Tasting along with the purchase of this wineBuy it for $44.99