This year, many locked-down home-workers, like myself, have noticed an increase in both wine consumption and visits from the postie. And there are plenty of curated wine-delivery services online that enable you to combine those two things in one handy package.
The Online Wine Tasting Club is a bit different though, as it places the emphasis on tasting and analysis, while relegating bacchanalian boozing to the back seat. Education, not inebriation, you might say.
Ok. So, What’s The Deal With The Online Wine Tasting Club?
Well… each month, club members are posted a box of five samples (around half a glass each), which they can choose to taste-along at one of the themed, monthly live online events if they wish (the calendar for these is on the website).
The club offers two membership levels: the Discoverer Series and the more expensive Adventurer Series. You can pay for a one-off month, but you’ll get your wine/tastings at a slightly discounted price if you sign up for a monthly subscription. They also offer private online tastings, which sound to me like a fine idea for a socially distanced birthday party.
The neatly designed, letterbox-friendly package I was sent housed five wee pouches of wine. There was also a pocket-sized notebook, containing a succinct wine-tasting guide and lots of pages on which to scribble your tasting notes. It felt like a pared-down version of the industry-standard WSET (Wines & Spirits Education Trust) diploma courses.
The pouches are lightweight and environmentally friendly, although you do need to be careful when opening them. It’s like prising open a melted choc ice, or an oversized sachet of fish ‘n’ chip vinegar. I managed to open them all without spilling a drop, which I guess says more about my aversion to spilling wine than it does about my neatness levels.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to taste them live online, but here are some brief notes on what arrived in the box — a selection of cool-climate wines from the UK and New Zealand, five whites and a red.
Seifrield Estate Gruner Veltliner 2017, from Nelson, New Zealand. 12.5% vol
Intensely fruity orange, grapefruit and white pepper on the nose, while taste-wise it’s one of the zestiest wines I’ve ever had. Intensely citrusy and refreshing as a lemon sorbet.
Saint Clair Merlot 2017, Hawkes Bay, NZ. 13% vol
Saint Clair are among my favourite Kiwi winemakers, but I’ve mostly tried their whites in the past. Velvety in texture, with notes of black pepper, dark fruits, liquorice and chocolate — this turned out to me among my faves.
Double Hedges Bacchus 2015. 11.5% vol
Bacchus grapes thrive in southern England. This one’s from Bedfordshire, a little farther north than most. It’s also unusually old, at five years. It explodes with crisp white orchard fruits, like a fresh breeze on a sunny early-autumn afternoon.
Simpsons Gravel Castle Chardonnay 2019. 12.5% vol
This offering from the Garden of England (that’s Kent to you) provides smashing, up-front citrus and tropical fruit flavours. A little bit of home-grown Burgundy. Well, sort of.
Hush Heath Springfield Chardonnay 2018. 12% vol
Another one from Kent, the light ‘n’ lean Hush Heath impresses with sharp grapefruit and limey tangs, alongside elegant nuances of complexity from its five months aged in oak barrels.
The Online Wine Tasting Club offers a stylishly curated selection box of carefully sourced wines, while the little wine-tasting guide is considered and engagingly written in a way that’ll appeal to novices as well as more seasoned “terroiristes“. From what I’ve tasted, the quality is high. And it’s good that you can buy any wines you particularly like from the club’s online shop.
A year’s subscription would make a brilliant present and I could totally see it acting as a springboard for people to take their interest further and complete one of the WSET wine qualifications.
See The Online Wine Tasting Club website for further details.