Glass half full? Join an e-tasting

Alice Lascelles selects online masterclasses, tastings and festivals to keep the spirits lifted

The UK’s bars and restaurants may be closed, but online, the drinks world is still very much open for business. Here are the best virtual tastings, Q&As, masterclasses and festivals taking place online in the next few weeks. 

Mayfair wine merchant Hedonism is hosting Classic or Hedonistic tastings
Mayfair wine merchant Hedonism is hosting Classic or Hedonistic tastings

WINE

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Wine tasting with Hedonism

Mayfair’s most glamorous wine merchant, Hedonism, is hosting a series of five-star Wednesday- and Friday-night tastings over the coming weeks, accompanied by a corresponding mixed case. Choose from either the Classic tasting (£150-£200) or Hedonistic (£300-£600), which goes out later in the evening, and have the wines delivered in advance. Themes include White Wines & Understanding Acidity, Red Wines & Understanding Tannin and a Virtual “Reverse” Blind Tasting, with treats from Opus One, Sassicaia, Château Latour and Egon Muller. Tickets are limited to 10 people per session and include the wine delivery. 

When: 10, 15, 17 and 24 April; 6-7pm for the Classic tasting; 7.30-8.30pm for Hedonistic

Platform: Zoom

Tickets: Classic (£150-£200) or Hedonistic (£300-£600)

Booking: hedonism.co.uk/wine-spirits-tastings
  

Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel is offering a cocktail masterclass
Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel is offering a cocktail masterclass

Champagne tasting with The Finest Bubble & Essi Avellan MW

Specialist champagne merchant The Finest Bubble has teamed up with the world’s leading fizz expert Essi Avellan MW to present a series of Friday-night tastings on Instagram Live. The next session, which airs on Friday 10 April, will explore the smartest buys from two stellar vintages: 2008 and 2012. Buy all five champagnes featured in the tasting at a special discounted price, so you can taste along in real time, or just tune in for free. If you’re in London, Finest Bubble promises to deliver within two hours. 

When: Fridays at 6.30pm – check the website for details of upcoming events

Platform: instagram.com/TheFinestBubble

Website: thefinestbubble.com

Honest Grapes is hosting interactive chats with top winemakers and live-streamed grower tastings
Honest Grapes is hosting interactive chats with top winemakers and live-streamed grower tastings

In-House with Newcomer Wines 

This super-cool east London wine merchant has one of the best natural wine lists in London. Its Dalston premises may be shut, but it’s still delivering – and now, thanks to the information superhighway, it can bring its winemakers to you. Every Wednesday afternoon this month, it will be hosting a CrowdCast discussion with three winemakers on a particular topic: upcoming themes include varietals now seeing a revival, how to become a winemaker and the art of “slow” winemaking. So knock off early, pour a glass of vino and start planning your next career move. 

When: Wednesdays in April at 3pm

Platform: CrowdCast

Registration: visit newcomerwines.com and click on In-House.

Listen to CrowdCast discussions with different winemakers with Newcomer Wines
Listen to CrowdCast discussions with different winemakers with Newcomer Wines

Honest Grapes goes around the world online

Trade favourite Honest Grapes is hosting all sorts of live events in the coming weeks, including interactive chats with top winemakers and live-streamed grower tastings from the likes of the 100-point St Emilion winemaker Jonathan Maltus OBE. It is also launching Wine Therapy Sessions: Around the World in 48 Wines, a globetrotting series of tastings taking in key regions around the world, hosted by HTSI.com contributor Tom Harrow. Prices start at £30 for a bottle or £60 for three delivered to your home and access to an interactive tasting. Enjoy the ride. 

When: Various times and dates; see honestgrapes.co.uk for details

Discover cult winery Donkey & Goat with Nekter Wines
Discover cult winery Donkey & Goat with Nekter Wines | Image: Sari Blum

The Big English Wine Tasting

The English and Welsh wine industry has been hit hard by coronavirus, because a large proportion of sales come from restaurants and tourism. In a bid to boost business – as well as morale – a cast of top winemakers, sommeliers, retailers and journalists will be staging an online BYO tasting on 10 April. Participants already confirmed for the Big English Good Friday tasting include Nyetimber, Rathfinny and Gusbourne (as well as yours truly). So buy a bottle of English fizz, tune in and support your local growers. 

When: Friday 10 April at 7pm

Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube

The Big English Good Friday wine tasting
The Big English Good Friday wine tasting

The Wine Show @ Home

One of YouTube’s most popular wine programmes has not stopped rolling: every weeknight, it will be coming to you live from the home of presenter/sommelier Joe Fattorini. Expect real-time tastings (wines will be advertised in advance, so you can order in), Q&As, live link-ups with top winemakers and sommeliers and a good dose of humour too. They’ll also be banging the drum for independent merchants up and down the country, and sharing ways you can support the hospitality industry. 

When: Mon-Fri at 7pm

Platform: The Wine Show YouTube channel

The Finest Bubble is offering a champagne tasting
The Finest Bubble is offering a champagne tasting

Wine-tasting with Quality Wines

If you’re pining for lunch at Farringdon’s famous The Quality Chop House, seek solace in an InstaLive tasting with the restaurant’s offy Quality Wines. Hosted by sommelier Gus Gluck, events have so far included a live link-up with cult Beaujolais producer Domaine Chapel and a champagne knees-up with Noble Rot. Many of the wines featured are available for delivery from Quality Wines. 

When: approx 6pm; check instagram.com/qualitywinesfarringdon for events

Platform: instagram.com/qualitywinesfarringdon

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Under-the-radar with Red Squirrel

Top indie wine merchant Red Squirrel will be running Zoom tastings of wines from its excellent mixed cases over the next few weeks. Highlights for the tasting on 9 May will include a Bellwether Tempranillo from Wrattonbully in South Australia and Quinta dos Espinhosos LIV Vinho Verde (which it recommends with salad or goat’s cheese). Winemakers from around the world will also be tuning in for vinous Q&As.

When: For the latest programme of events, sign up at redsquirrelwine.com

Platform: Zoom

Taste a wine-a-week with Nekter Wines 

Every time I taste with this up-and-coming wine merchant, I discover an under-the-radar gem and hear some wonderful stories too. Cult, low-intervention wines from South Africa, California and Australia are its speciality – and wineries set to feature in the next few weeks include Steve Matthiasson, Benevolent Neglect, Keep Wines and Donkey & Goat. Each series of six tastings is accompanied by a mixed case priced at either £120 or £200 for six wines. The first couple of sessions have already sailed, but there’s still time to join the remaining four. Expect live link-ups with winemakers too.  

When: every Friday until 1 May at 7pm or 8pm

Booking: nekterwines.com

SPIRITS & COCKTAILS

OurWhisky festival

Some of the biggest names in whisky have been signed up to host tastings for this four-night, virtual whisky festival, which is raising funds for the hospitality industry. Each £30 ticket includes the chance to take part in a tutored tasting and a Q&A with a surprise guest and award-winning whisky writer Becky Paskin. All profits go to The Drinks Trust. Highly recommended. 

When: 30 April, 7, 14 and 21 May at 6pm

Platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

Tickets: £30 from 8 April (strictly limited to 50 per session) at ourwhisky.com

Whisky Wire Twitter tastings

Fast approaching their 180th event, these guys pretty much invented the online tasting (I know because I took part in one of the first). Each Twitter tasting focuses on a single distiller: WD O’Connell Irish Whiskey on 22 April and Dublin Liberties Distillery on 29 April. Not as high tech as some, but always lots of fun – and host Steve Rush’s knowledge is second to none. 

Registration: For upcoming tastings, visit thewhiskywire.com 

Milroy’s tastings at home

London’s oldest whisky shop is now offering lovers of a dram the chance to book a one-hour, one-to-one Zoom tasting with a member of its expert team. Simply purchase one of the special tasting flights online – Scotland, Around the World and American & Grain Whiskey (all available at either an introductory or premium level) – and then one of the team will follow up to arrange a time to suit you. If you want advice about developing your existing whisky collection, Milroy’s also offers one-to-one whisky consultations online or over the phone. 

Introductory flights: £35 (retail price up to £50); premium flights: £60 (retail price up to £100); consultations: £15 for Milroy’s Dram House members, £20 for non-members. shop.milroys.co.uk

Cocktail masterclass with the Henrietta Hotel

Learn about spirits and hone your cocktail skills with the team from the Henrietta Hotel – the Experimental Group’s decadent outpost in Covent Garden. The first 20 self-isolators who sign up for each session will receive a free set of miniatures, delivered to their door, so they can mix and taste in real time. The series kicks off on 11 April with a session on Appleton Rum, while other topics include the Negroni, bourbon and tequila. 

When: 5.30pm at various dates – check Instagram for details

Platforms: Instagram, YouTube

Sign up at instagram.com/HenriettaHotel

Summerton Whisky Festival

Summerton Whisky Club has already signed up some great names, including Glenfarclas, Bimber, The Lakes Distillery and Sweden’s Mackmyra for this all-day virtual whisky festival. The £38 ticket gets you access to a packed programme of live-streamed tastings, Q&As and cocktail demos, plus a box of whisky tasters, mixers and snacks delivered to your door. 

When: 30 May, 12.30pm-10pm

Tickets: £38, including tasting kit

Booking: summertonwhiskyfestival.com

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