A toast to virtual wine tasting

Virtual Wine Tasting
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One experience that many a hotel and restaurant guest missed during the pandemic was wine tasting. Swirling a glass of red, white, rosé or bubbly, while chatting with other connoisseurs, learning about their vintage from sommeliers and discussing the best accompaniments with the chef – wine tastings were the stuff weekends were made of.

Suddenly, all these in-person experentials came to a grinding halt last year.

However, the hospitality industry is nothing if not resilient and innovative. Many brands got creative and found newer ways to bring wine experiences right to the living rooms of guests, through virtual wine tastings.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for instance, partnered with Iconic Wineries of British Columbia bringing bottles from the Okanagan Valley, to help Canadian guests create an interesting staycation in their own backyard. Several wineries across Europe and the US, too, collaborated with hotel companies to organise virtual wine tasting sessions, for symbiotically beneficial business.

Sure, these online sessions did not have the same panache as an in-person tasting. However, Anubhav Bajpai, CEO and Co-Founder, VouchPro pointed out that it remains a great alternative to keep guest engagement going.

Hotels and restaurants would regularly host wine appreciation and tasting sessions for their guests in the pre-pandemic months. What ingenuous strategies did they employ to adapt when things came to a standstill?

During the pandemic, staying at home turned reality into a virtual reality. Many hotels and F&B companies shifted quickly to online wine tasting events to give guests a real-time view of this experience from the comfort of their homes.

In addition to tasting wine, they could interact with experts, and other connoisseurs around the globe. To help them do this, hotels came up with merchandise like to-go cocktail pouches and grab-and-go beverage units. These are expected to have an area within the hotel experience as an add-on to a guest’s stay or event offerings.

For instance, a leading vineyard used recently VouchPro’s 3D immersive technology to curate a virtual cultural festival and wine tasting event. This included organising tasting sessions with experts and digging deep into some interesting trivia to give the audience a clear perspective about how wine is produced thus, which made the event a success.

How can hotels and restaurants host virtual wine sessions for their guests?
They can start by preparing a list of all the guests to be invited. Next up is adding a variety of wines in the session, with some mouth watering flavours. It is best advised to plan the event flow in collaboration with a sommelier as well as an event host. 
One must remember that inter-state delivery of wine bottles is not permitted. Hence, to avoid any kind of hindrance, they should plan out the logistics with respect to sending bottles of wine to their respective guests. Some other things they can bear in mind include sending bottles of wine from the same winery. 
During the session, the event host should walk the participants through each wine, and explain their tasting notes, the creation process as well as some food pairing options. A great idea would be to even send food and wine pairing guides in advance, or throw in live cooking demonstrations.

How can hotels navigate group dynamics, technology, and time management as well as logistics while conceptualizing and executing these virtual wine tastings?
The foremost point to bear in mind is selecting a virtual platform where connectivity can be done easily. Next is checking all necessary technicalities to avoid last minute hassles. They should also set up a suitable time and ambience comes.

The pandemic has made hoteliers rethink on innovative ways to provide services and experiences to their guests. Delivering wine bottles before the event to them and interacting with them during these tough times will give a sense of warmth therefore, strengthening bonds and enhancing connectivity.

How can they make these virtual sessions more interactive by weaving in story-telling and creative alternatives, even creating breakout rooms or sending a link after the event?

Tasting with other people in person cannot be replaced by virtual tasting. Virtual tasting can be a great way to reconnect with friends and family by playing a little trivia game for a chance to win a wine bottle. Also, by meeting winemakers virtually and interacting with them at your own comfy environment.

Can these curated experiential virtual sessions pay rich dividends to hotels?
Keeping guests engaged always pays off by ensuring their long-term loyalty. It gives them a sense of belongingness with the brand. Organising sessions virtually will not limit the presence of people but will allow more people to join in from across the globe.

Published as on: Hotelier India

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