The virtues (or not) of virtual wine tastings

One more example of how the wine industry is changing at lightening speed in terms of how it markets and promotes its wares came my way this afternoon. In the past, Wines of Chile, a trade group, might have invited a group of journalists and critics like me to a tasting event or a dinner, presenting the wines with some commentary by a winemaker or two. Today I received an invitation to attend a “virtual Wines of Chile blogger tasting” on May 12. The invitation said that prior to the event I would receive a “tasting kit” that would include eight Chilean sauvignon blancs, tasting notes and “suggested recipes that pair well with the wines as well as other information to make the experience as informative and enjoyable as possible.”

They make it sound as though tasting wines is a painful experience.  A sommelier, Fred Dexheimer, will be part of the event, as well as winemakers from eight of Chile’s “top-rated wineries.” Wow. With all those tasting notes and recipe suggestions, with all that commentary and guidance from a  sommelier and an army of winemakers, will there be anything left for me to figure out on my own, like whether I think the wines are well made or good values? I’m reminded of what a colleague told me eight years ago, when I was about to launch my column on MSNBC.com. He said, speaking for the audience: describe the wines in basic terms, give us some context, but leave something for us to discover on our own. They are words I’ve tried to live by in my many years as a critic. And they apply well to Chilean sauvignon blancs, which tend to be fresh, uncomplicated wines --the very thing that makes them attractive. They simply do not need to be overanalyzed. Yes, I’ll attend the virtual tasting next month with all that firepower and tasting ammunition. As always, I will like some of the wines more than others and I will let my readers know, in my professional opinion, why. But don’t be surprised if I spend at least part of the event with the volume on my computer turned down.

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