Oenophiles Online: Welcome to Virtual Tastings

Online auctions, cyber dating, and internet grocery shopping. There’s not much we can’t do in the web space nowadays, including wine tasting, and Snooth.com has perfected the experience. How you ask? With more than one million unique visitors and over 275,000 subscribers to its daily newsletters, Snooth has become a favorite destination for oenophiles online. More than 960,000 registered community members head there to review wines, compare prices, and get the inside skinny on varietals, vintages and regions. More and more of those members are also getting plugged in to its Virtual Tasting Program.

Here’s how it works: Conducted as if it was an informal class, the session is led by Snooth’s editor Gregory Dal Piaz, who hosts a one-hour live tasting over the web, usually with a winemaker, for an online audience who posts questions or comments through Twitter or the Snooth website. The participants, who hail from around the country and even overseas, are invited to watch and taste along with the experts after receiving information about the topics and wines beforehand. It’s a fun, educational experience that’s never scripted. The goal of the program is to introduce the audience to a region, producer or varietal (and sometimes all three) in a relaxed and casual environment (meaning your couch), while highlighting around four to six wines. The host tastes and discusses the wines, gives a history of the region, and then just lets the conversation flow, so to speak. It’s an innovative way to learn about wine and taste it with no pressure, and from the comfort of your own home.

What determines the focus of these tastings? “We select the topics via a variety of ways,” says Kristen Hager, Snooth’s marketing director, “what our readers want, what content (regions and varieties) are getting high engagement on the site, and what we think is cool and interesting at any given time.”

Some tips for first-time tasters? “Get a tasting group together and be sure to pick up some of the wines,” adds Kristen. “It’s more fun and educational to taste along. Also, be sure to create a Snooth account, so you can log on and actually join the conversation during the tasting. It’s a good idea to tell your guests to bring a laptop or tablet, so they can participate in the conversation as well.”

The next tasting will introduce Snooth’s new site design, which features a chat function that helps them keep track of what their users are saying and wanting to learn about. They have also included quiz as an educational component. They are connected to WineRack, Snooth’s social gaming platform, where users can win trophies for completing these quizzes and recording tasting notes.

Snooth currently organizes about eight Virtual Tastings each year and has plans to start hosting them on a monthly basis. The program was initially created two years ago so that the company could extend interaction with its global audience.

Snooth’s next Virtual Tasting will be covering the Hudson Valley Wine Region. It’s scheduled to take place on March 21 at 8PM. For more information, head to http://www.snooth.com.

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