Too Soon to Spitoon?

Wine tasting is an important part of the wine trade. It allows us to analyse and to make decisions.

We taste for many different reasons. It might be to determine quality. It may be for education, to decide whether to stock a wine (or to delist!), to recommend, to review, to judge and on and on.

Ask a question. Taste. Answer the question.

Wine Tasting : Simple and Useful

For a lot of valid reasons Covid has ended in-person tastings. : indoors; spitting; crowded rooms etc.

Dunnes Stores and Liberty Wines Tastings

I was invited to an in-person tasting this week. It was in Dublin. I declined as I thought it was too early, too dangerous and, for now, not essential. (I wonder did others think the same?) It was an odd invite as noone else in the trade is hosting events like these right now. There have been a few innovative virtual events where wines are delivered prior to a Zoom or Teams on-line meeting. Wines of Argentina held a brilliant one back in June while Aresti (Chile label in SuperValu) is holding one later today. These are limited, however, and are more like seminars and master classes than they are tastings. During the pre Covid ‘tasting seasons’ (Spring and Autumn) there would have been two or more tastings a week. At times there may have been a couple of hundred different wines open at the one tasting.

So, when is the right time to kick tastings off again and what will they be like?

Wines of Argentina Virtual Tasting/Masterclass
  • Can we can assume that open bucket spitting will be a no no for the foreseeable? Nothing wrong with that as it has always been a health hazard in the making! There are a few expert spitters in the trade (Martin Moran MW, of the Sunday Times, wins my vote in this regard!) but there have been many a slip between glass and bucket. Oh, and wearing a white shirt just meant you could see the splatters afterwards! Personal spittoons with an anti splash spitting funnel please!
  • Perhaps focused tastings rather than the scatter gun approach of portfolio tastings. This would mean fewer wines per tasting and limited attendances. So, three to four hours in a crowded room with two hundred opened bottles would be reduced to access to twenty to thirty wines tasted by a select audience organised by times slots. This will be hard on many suppliers who use their portfolio event to meet and greet both customers and potential customers.
  • How about individual tasting booths that can be sanitised and wiped down easily? Overseas suppliers could walk by, pour a few wines and have a quick chat. I’m tempted to call this the tasting bubble! One individual could ‘meet’ a load of overseas this way – a lot of repetitive work by suppliers is the stuff of pouring wines at any tasting!

But what of the Wine Festival open to the general public? O’Briens Wines have led the way with these for the past few years but many independent stores have also used these as a way to sell wine, and to raise money for charity, at Christmas time.

Well, this year the Wine Festival won’t be a feature of our landscape. I don’t see these arriving back while attendances are limited and mask wearing is recommended. What a pity. Is there an alternative? No. What can be done? Lots.

  • If the Wine Festival is a sales mechanic and cannot take place then retailers simply need to reach their audience with something different. This is, after all, what retailing is all about – to stand apart with a point of difference! The Wine Fair or Wine Festival is a relatively new feature in the trade and is very time consuming and expensive to organise.
  • Online Competitions. Raffles. Quizzes. Celebrity endorsements. Sales. Unique products. Give Aways. Sponsorships. Newsletters. Have these gone away in favour of the one off Fair? In many cases they have. They are time consuming. I’m sorry, but are you in or are you out? Keep your customers close and then a little closer ….

Change is here. Change has always helped the wine trade. Tastings are now about to change. Hopefully we will, one day, get back to the great times we have had at the likes of the Rioja Wine Terrace at Taste of Dublin. Hopefully. But, if that takes time then lets do something different, safely.