Here's how to swirl, sniff and slurp your way through lockdown

Two months into lockdown and we’re a long way from normality resuming, it’s interesting to see what people have been using the increased time at home for: DIY projects, spring cleaning and baking are high on the list but we’ve noticed that people are definitely boozing more. So many motivational memes and articles suggest that now is a great time to learn a new skill, so why not combine the two and get an education while you drink?

Through the power of Zoom, we’ve been to the top of the famous hill of Hermitage

Wine tasting is not all swirling, sniffing and shouting out random things like ‘cherry,’ ‘leather’ and ‘Chewits.’ Fun and eye-opening as detecting flavour nuances is, learning about wine also teaches you about history, geography, geology, horticulture, climate change, business and more. Someone once said that wine is where art and science meet. Of course, you might even find a wine that you really love and want to stock up.

Here are some local wine enthusiasts and experts running courses and one off tastings that can be attended from the comfort of your own home. 

2020 05 27 Wine Tastings Cork Of The North
The effervescent Marc Hough from Cork of The North

Cork Of The North

£22.50 per person

Upcoming dates: June 12th and 26th

Gaffer of two popular (and brilliantly named) wine shops in Heaton Moor and Sale, Marc Hough hosts these enthusiastic tastings on Facebook live with fervent use of the comment box encouraged. If you struggle to finish whole bottles but want to try a bunch of different wines side by side, these sessions are perfect as Marc delivers six tasting bottles (about a 125ml glass of each) to your door - just check you are within their delivery radius. Details of all the wines are included but the bottles are numbered so you could test yourself with a blind tasting before the session if you wanted to. These sessions are for everyone, Marc’s knowledge is broad and you definitely learn something but the focus is on fun and exploring wines you might not have had before - oh and a few dad jokes. 

Marc says: “Tasty wine makes the lockdown more bearable  - and we’re ecstatic to see that so many people are joining our online wine tastings from the comfort of their own homes. We send out six miniature bottles and a tasting sheet – and then wine lovers can join me on Facebook Live, to taste the wines and hear all about them. It’s an interactive tasting as we reply to all the comments and questions ‘live’ during the broadcast. Our tastings are fun, informative, and are delivered in a ‘down-to-earth’ manner – one thing you’ll never get on a Cork of the North tasting is a prat in a cravat.”

2020 06 02 Wine Tasting Mws Simon 2
Manchester Wine School's encyclopaedic expert Simon Woods

Manchester Wine School

From £10 for individual sessions plus the cost of the wine

Next tasting: 11th June - Australian wine

Simon Woods, owner of Manchester Wine School, is an encyclopaedic font of wine knowledge; he’s even written a few books about the stuff. He’s full of fun facts and interesting yarns which make the school’s online (and real life) wine tastings extremely popular. These tastings are hosted on Zoom and are colourful and interactive, with Simon’s informative and illustrative slides making the geography, history and science part much more enjoyable and engaging than we remember from our school days. What makes these even more fun is the interaction with other wine tasters from all walks of life as you are encouraged to participate in small group tasks as well. You’ll pay for the session and full bottles of - significantly discounted - great wine delivered to your door so you can polish off the rest of the bottle(s) in your own time.

Simon explains why his wine tastings are so well attended: “Our expansion into online tastings has been a great success. Through the power of Zoom, we’ve been to the top of the famous hill of Hermitage, seen the aftermath of devastating bush fires in the Adelaide Hills, discovered the differences that the local landscape gives to the wines of Rioja and much more. Customers appreciate the opportunities to ask questions and interact with others, and the feedback has been very enthusiastic, with a number of people getting in touch to set up special private tastings for them and their friends.”

There are one-off classes covering different regions, grapes and styles; four-week wine courses with a case a of 12 bottles to explore and - if you’re looking for a more serious qualification - the school is now offering fully tutored WSET levels 1 and 2 courses.

2020 06 07 Wine Kwoff


From £20 for a tasting kit or around £75 for a case of six full sized bottles

Next tasting: Saturday 20th June - Waterkloof South Africa

Kwoff is a modern, accessible and welcoming wine shop in Bury run by David, Rob and Peter Jones. They specialise in exciting wines at a fair price sold by enthusiasts and love it when people drop in for a natter. Now they are taking their wine tastings online via Facebook live. 

Those wanting to participate have a choice of either buying the full size bottles or packs of tasting samples for one or two people. Tastings are presented by Rob Jones and they are always pushing forward to make things more interesting. For example, the next wine tasting  - which focuses on wines from Waterkloof wines from Western Cape, South Africa - will also feature a live, online tour of the vineyard with head winemaker Nadia Barnard. They also incorporate a quiz to give you a chance to test your wine geekery. Join the mailing list or keep an eye on socials for news of more upcoming tastings. 

2020 05 27 Wine Tastings Cracking Wine Janet
Janet Harrison from Cracking Wine in Didsbury

Cracking Wine

From £35 per household with a minimum of six friends/households for each event

Dates to suit you

Don’t fancy wine tasting with a bunch of strangers? How does a bespoke tasting event for just you and your friends sound? Janet Harrison at Cracking Wine in Didsbury uses her wine expertise to curate a tasting just for you and your preferences tailored for any occasion. While we are all missing birthdays, anniversaries and even hen and stag nights, an online wine tasting could be a good way to celebrate remotely with your loved ones. 

Janet says: “It is a great time to learn about wine at the moment and try something new. I wanted to be as flexible as possible and can offer a tasting of fantastic wines from a local independent merchant, or even a supermarket wine theme with recommendations of what to buy locally. All the events are hosted on Zoom (we are all experts now!) and perfect for wine-loving groups of friends or work colleagues who can't physically be together - normally lasting around an hour.

“The 'Best of the indies' tasting includes two or three 75cl bottles per household, tasting notes, tasting mats and salty snacks all delivered to your door, within the Greater Manchester area.”

2020 06 02 Club Vino Lockdown

Club Vino

Boxes start at £110 for six full bottles

No dates, you do you

If you want to taste and drink wine when it's convenient for you, thank you very much, without the commitment or faff of a Zoom call or having to remember to log on in time for a live video, Club Vino might be your glass of rosé. The club was founded in 2018 by wine sommelier and ex-wine merchant Marco Castelanelli with the aim of sharing his enthusiasm for the stories and people behind the wine we drink. So much love, time and attention goes into making a good bottle of wine but it’s easy to forget all that when you’re getting squiffy drinking a bottle of Chardonnay through a straw in the park. 

Now adapting to online tastings, Marco says: “With our different packages and guided video, you’re free to drink and taste the wine any time you wish. We hope that the experience is perfect for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.”

Club Vino packages include a themed case of six or 12 bottles, printable tasting notes with food pairing suggestions, printable glass markers, and a video link that guides you through the wines and tells you the story behind each bottle.

Liked this? Read: Now seems a good time to learn about natural wine

Also: The best independent wine shops in Greater Manchester (and beyond)