How to Host a Brilliant Virtual Wine Soiree

I have hosted 50 virtual wine classes at this half-year mark into the pandemic.  My stamina remains strong, but who would’ve predicted that we’d still be clinking glasses against our screens at this point? We wine lovers are a resilient bunch and we remain determined to share our passion with our compatriots in this new normal world.  So let’s face it, virtual vino here to stay.   

Here are some tips to make online oenology as engaging, inviting, and as interactive as possible!

I’ll drink to that!

Select a theme that will connect your guests and encourage them to share experiences and participate in the conversation. Do you have friends that postponed a vacation to wine country? Why not recreate the trip and taste wines from that region?

Do you have a favorite grape or one that you have always wanted to discover? Pick different wines produced from the same varietal and explore their differences and similarities.

Want to delve into a little more “formal” wine education with your guests? The classic “Old World vs. New World” theme continues to be a favorite. Comparing, for instance, Napa red wines with Bordeaux blends, is always enlightening. Other engaging themes include exploring bold reds, discovering refreshing whites, surveying sparkling wines, or tasting a flight of wines from one producer.

Wine Matters 

Select three or four wines that represent your theme and arrange wine pick-up. If guests live in the same area, working with a local wine shop to create a bundle for your event is easy and ensures everyone is tasting the same wine.

If joining from different locations—highly likely in this virtual world—provide guests with a thorough description of the wines so they can purchase similar wines in their local shops. But avoid requiring specific brands as retailer supply will vary, especially during the pandemic.

In addition to providing regional, stylistic, or varietal information in the invite, mention the order in which you will taste the wines. The wine can be presented any way you like, but it’s typical to start with sparkling wines then progress to whites, rosés, reds, and conclude with sweet or dessert wines.

Finally, encourage guests to pour just a couple of ounces of wine until you get through your menu. You can always revisit wines after your discussion.

Crushing It

Once guests have acquired their wines, joined you online—and worked through any technical difficulties—let the wine-derlust begin!

Discuss the wines in a conversational yet descriptive fashion. Be creative while discussing the characteristics of the wine. Ask guests to provide their impressions of the wines: what aromas (fruit, floral, spices, etc.), flavors (herbs, vegetables, earthy etc.), textures (watery, creamy, unctuous, etc.), colors (transparent, opaque, etc.)  are they experiencing? How are the wines similar or different? Consider creating a tasting grid or providing a tasting notes sheet so guests can record their thoughts.

And by all means, don’t be afraid to get personal! You are trying to develop meaningful connections with the wine. Does the wine remind them of any personal experiences, any happy memories, any voyages to wine country?

Finally, consider providing a couple of visual aids: maps, pictures, or simple graphics can add interest and help transport your guests to these wonderful regions you are exploring together. Asking guests to share some of their own wine images will make your event even more interactive and meaningful. 

We are all craving spending time with others and wine continues to be perfect vehicle to create meaningful and deeper connections.  Even if we must continue to do so virtually, there is truly no reason we still can’t travel the world through wine!

Do you need help creating your online wine event? Contact Erlinda so she can get her 51st virtual wine class notch on her belt. She’ll craft every aspect of your experience and connect you to the world of wine. All you have to do is log on…Give her a shout to create your next “trip” at or follow her on Instagram @thevinicola to sign up for her next class.

Known locally as the “Wine Evangelist,” Erlinda is a certified wine educator, columnist, and sommelier who teaches about wine in an engaging and approachable manner. Her wine column #WINEDERLUST appeals to wine enthusiasts and novices alike, while her sold-out seminars, held in pop-up locations around our area, are high-energy, engaging and educational. As ABC Columbia’s resident Sommelier, Erlinda also teaches #WINESCHOOL on morning TV.

Working with her industry colleagues, Erlinda helps local and international beverage retailers and suppliers engage with the community. She’s organized wine festivals, launched restaurant wine programs, and reported on the local wine scene. She hosts intimate wine discovery appointments at local venues and creates private educational events. Through her passion project, ViníCola, Erlinda has helped our community experience wine in a new, interactive way.

Erlinda earned her Certified Specialist in Wine credential from the Society of Wine Educators and received the Level 3 Award with Merit from the globally-recognized Wine Studies Education Trust. Erlinda also holds the Level 1 certification from the renowned International Court of Master Sommeliers and was awarded the Certified Sherry Wine Specialist credential from the prestigious Regulatory Council of Jerez, Spain. She is an experienced presenter, instructor, writer and taster. | erlinda@thevinicola com

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