Zooming along to a wine tasting has now gained another meaning. It used to mean rushing headlong through the doors of the nearest adult education venue so as not to be late. But now if you bring up the name of the branded video conferencing software called Zoom into the conversation it means you are having an online virtual experience. Zoom has entered the language – for good or bad – and it’s here to stay. So what does it involve and how can you take part?
Social distancing (another term that’ll surely be part of the Oxford English Dictionary by the end of 2020) means that face-to-face classroom wine tastings, chats and club meets have had to be cancelled and (finally) existing technology has taken over.
Slowly at first, with “early adopters” spotting an opportunity and now in a steady trickle as wine retailers, vineyards, wine schools and wine enthusiasts use their existing social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, if they remember, on their websites) to inform their followers of one-off or weekly events with a time, date and a login link with a (hopefully) secret password given to those that sign up.
“Zoom bombing” is another term that’s become well-known – unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. What can be planned as a social event using Zoom’s software capability to let many people see and talk to each other from the comfort of their own homes using the video camera and speakers found on computers and mobile phones, can turn into an unpleasant mess as malicious computer “hackers” join in and add offensive content just for “fun”.
How can this happen? By letting passwords become widely known. The message that banks and email providers have been telling us for years – do not share your password – has not been taken on-board by some of these “early adopters” who happily shared this information for all to see on websites and social media (yes I have seen it).
Fortunately as the use of Zoom (other software is available such as Crowdcast) becomes more common these occurrences will stop.
So what’s it like attending a Zoom wine chat? First of all the wine event organiser (such as national retailer Laithwaite’s and London-based Newcomer Wines) will send out a link and password (usually via email) to those who responded to an event posted on their website or social media pages. Clicking on this link on the date and time shown (or 10 minutes before to check your computer is working properly) will take you to Zoom’s website where you enter your password and then wait while the “host” checks you are who you say you are and avoids Zoom-bombing.
You’ll then see the faces of others taking part (if they switch on their video cameras) and a central area with either the host’s face or some text information on tonight’s event (7pm is a popular UK start time but remember to add in time zone differences if the organiser is in the United States which can be PST Pacific Standard Time or EST Eastern Standard Time and then factor in British Summer Time GMT+1).
The event may be fully interactive with general chit-chat via your video camera or, more commonly, the interactivity is controlled with microphones on “mute” and questions asked using Zoom’s text chat function.
Hopefully it will all start and end on time (online events are just as prone to organisers who like the sound of their own voice) and the internet bandwidth holds out (I’ve seen interviewees come and go on-screen) and the host remembers to prop up their laptop so they are looking directly into their video camera rather than leave it at table height and the downward facing chat means the virtual wine attendee looks up their nose.
Yes, Zoom wine events are still in their early stages as organisers realise they need to acquire the skills of a TV presenter or risk losing the good-will of us early technology adopters who will become everyday adopters rather sooner (or is that Zoomer?) than we all think.
PG Wine Reviews
Estevez Chilean Chardonnay, £3.99 Aldi
Another addition to Aldi’s value Estevez range. Fruity and creamy with lots of melon, peach, banana and apple but then it disappoints with a “hollow” middle – that is the flavour seems to disappear as you drink it and then come back. This type of taste experience is not uncommon in cheaper wines but then with a price of £3.99 you may be prepared to accept it.
M&S Cotes du Rhone Villages 2019, £10 M&S
This deep purple Cotes du Rhone smells invitingly of creamy cherry and tastes of spicy plum. It’s a nice enough wine but at ten quid it’s a bit expensive for what tastes like many generic French reds.
Torres Altos Ibericos Rioja Crianza 2015, £8.99 Waitrose, £11.99 Ocado
Aromas of chocolate and cherry are a good start for this floral red which is actually quite light in flavour considering the whopping 14.5% alcohol. It’s a nice wine but SPAR’s Rioja URSA Maior at a similar price and vintage knocks spots off it.
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