Between sips: In good taste

Online tasting sessions are a great way to discuss wines across boundaries without putting carbon miles on them

wine reu L So is this the future? Will all tastings in times to come be conducted on similar online platforms, reducing the need to travel to different places to taste and tell? (Reuters photo)

RECENTLY, I was privy to a very special experience: an online tasting. It’s self-explanatory, but allow me to elucidate. A winemaker (or winemakers) sends his wine to a different part of the world and the two parties—at the origin and the destination—come online at the same time. By means of a video connection, they then exchange notes about the wine as they taste it simultaneously. This is a great way to have a discussion about a wine across boundaries without putting carbon miles on them.

However, the tasting I was invited to—originating out of Italy—was even more unique because it wasn’t just being tasted in India. In fact, it was being tasted across at least six cities internationally, from New York to Shanghai and, of course, Delhi.

We sat there with as many live screens as there were cities, with HD-quality visuals, getting a peek into each tasting room, listening to each party present their opinions about the wines being tasted. It was a tasting of some extremely rare and highly-lauded Super Tuscan wines from the house of Castellare: I Sodi ti San Nicolo and Baffonero. Needless to say, the wines were unprecedentedly amazing and will be soon made available in India. However, with the prevailing taxes (and outlet margins), expect to part with a small yet sizeable fortune for a bottle.

The very fact that I was getting to taste these wines was a privilege. To then be able to listen to not only the winemakers and producers comment on them, but also have eminent wine luminaries from around the world share their views was truly a precious moment to be treasured. British Telecom made it possible through its very resilient and efficient network, streaming thousands of gigabytes of data constantly without any drops or delays.

So is this the future? Will all tastings in times to come be conducted on similar online platforms, reducing the need to travel to different places to taste and tell? It can surely save time and resources immensely—not to mention the environmental benefits accumulated by not zipping around the globe in a jet to simply share a glass and some tasting notes. In other cases, wine regions, which aren’t as financially equipped to spread their message, could use this method to dissipate information about the region and their wines. We could celebrate a Beaujolais Nouveau in Lyon, France, and still be in time for work the next morning. We could pair food and wine across the world to see how one particular wine performs with various cuisines. Or we could conduct a simultaneous blind tasting around the world.

But such a Utopian system isn’t without its share of snags. One problem would be concerning the logistics of transporting the wines to each destination in time for the tasting. The wines we tasted came to India with all due levies paid and requirements met, but a third wine in the set couldn’t make it in time. Another problem is network capability. Not everyone can afford stellar connections that make a dedicated lease line look amateur. And then, given the multiple time zones across which something like this might be conducted, chances are that somebody somewhere will have to taste at 7 am, while the rest of the world tastes just after teatime. Come to think of it, I can’t see why I mentioned any drawbacks. “Lucky them” is probably what I meant to say.

The writer is a sommelier

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