The current Cornonavirus global pandemic has seen the popularity of online wine courses, tastings and seminars skyrocket; I'm intrigued to see if this continues once we're on the other side of things. While local festivals, spring release tastings, classes and such have been swapped out for Zoom events, Instagram Live tastings, and other online ventures, it seems they were initially in place of existing events - now just in an online format. The ubiquity of these in the current arena of the wine industry seems to have expanded to fresh events and conversations - opportunities that were always there, but are a lot more obvious now that many of our lines of communications have changed.
Towards the end of a Zoom cocktail or two with pals when we were at the height of the Stay Home era here in Vancouver a few weeks back, Australia's Mac Forbes came up in conversation. I'd had a question come to mind about a recent Pinot Noir he'd released. With any sort of socialization beyond those we live with being online at the time, I simply reached out instinctively right at the moment. Within minutes we were FaceTiming; me on the couch, Forbes tromping through vineyards.
Granted, that was more of an impromptu chin-wag, but it's more to illustrate how many of us have less hesitation these days to expand our vinous horizons online, even to far-flung regions of the world from where we're sittin'.
There's a bigger grab bag out there of virtual opportunities to educate ourselves with online courses, or to sip and swirl with wine-world luminaries around the globe.
Here are a couple that recently caught my eye:
Bâtonnage Women in Wine Forum
Started in Napa, California in 2018, Bâtonnage has quickly become an important hub for conversation and action in the wine industry. They are guided by their intention; from their site:
Bâtonnage is the brainchild of all those who identify as women working in all the different facets of the wine industry... even (especially) those who have traditionally been overlooked or spoken over. We strive to educate wine professionals as well as wine industry supporters on the unique challenges and opportunities that women in the field--winemakers, vineyard workers, writers and marketers, salespeople, sommeliers, collectors, and drinkers--have faced both historically and present-day. We simultaneously seek to propose pragmatic solutions for charting a positive, inclusive course forward.
This year, their events and seminars go digital. Some of the best hearts and minds of the wine industry are on the bill. Elaine Chukan Brown moderates 'Vineyard Workers: What's Really Going On,' Julia Coney moderates 'Stirring It Up: Color, Wine, and Feminism,' and we're just scratching the surface of incredible content up for grabs.
Bâtonnage events run June 16 through July 10, but you have to hop to it! Registration for events close June 14th. All the info you need is right here.
Wines of South Africa Online Wine Course
The most recent wine trip I took was to South Africa late last year, and I was incredibly inspired each day. The country is a key destination for two of my very favourite varieties, done particularly well by a couple of my favourite producers: Chenin Blanc (Hey, Ken Forrester!), and Cinsault (What's up, Natte Valleij?). South Africa is home to some of the oldest grapevine plantings in the world, and at the same time there's a new wave of young winemakers shaking things up with a strong natural wine movement, a renewed dedication to traditional method sparkling wine, and a fierce dedication to wines of time and place.
This course offered by Wines of South Africa is comprised of quick-paced bullet-points, maps, and infographics that'll get you up to speed on all the elements we expect from a master class on a wine region: namely history, geography, climate, varieties, wine styles, viticulture and viniculture, plus social and economic components. There's a quiz at the end of each module, and those who complete the course receive a certificate of completion. It's free, available to all any time, and you can go at your own pace; more here.
Grab a glass and get clicking! I'll post a bunch of other online opportunities soon!