What is a Wine Masterclass?
25th January 2023
If you are to be involved in the wine industry then it is very important that you immerse yourself fully in the products you are working with. As wine is very much a flavour experience, though of similar importance, aroma and visual quality, it pays you to understand these qualities well in order to be involved in promotions, selling, reviewing etc.
There are many countries that produce wine with plenty of styles via many regions, countless producers and simply an endless choice of labels. The world of wine is hugely populated with an ever expanding choice for the end consumer making the role of those producing the wines and everyone in between who’s job it is to give them the required exposure, of the upmost importance.
The chain of action from producer to end consumer will involve professional people within:
- Wine Producer
- Reviewers (such as via Vivino)
- Judges (such as via the Champagne & Sparkling Wine Awards)
- PR / Communications / Marketing / Press
- End Consumer / Buyer
Each winery, with the budget to be able to, will have an allocation of wines produced that are there to invest in our ‘chain of action’ group stated above, the main focus being letting everyone know what their wines taste like / how they are performing.
“Have you ever tasted samples at the local food market, maybe someone has cut up bread in to small pieces in order for you to sample thus understanding better the flavours it holds with the main purpose being to tempt you in to purchasing? Wine works in the same way!”
So, what are wine masterclasses? These organised events allow multiple people, at the same time, to taste wines via samples. On most occasions there will be a representative of the wine(s) who will introduce each sample you taste and they will be speaking to a room full of invited guests.
Here’s a vertical tasting of Louis Roederer Champagne (Cristal) I attended alongside Jancis Robinson, Michael Edwards and other selected sparkling wine journalists.
Set up will be rather like a class room, most times a host (likely to be a representative of the winery / wine region) will be (taste) guiding a room of attendees who will be sat at tables / around a table with a collection of empty wine glasses in front of them and, ideally, supporting literature. The host will (possibly aided) serve sample amounts to each guest and discuss what they have poured and will then invite the guests to taste and review. The host will be available for any questions.
A masterclass will usually include an introduction to the wines / winery / wine region / country. To accompany the masterclass the host may have a PowerPoint presentation and sometimes even video footage. They can be quite basic in tasting wines only to more in-depth and well planned to include studying the soil types the vines are grown in (see below). You might be invited to a masterclass looking at latest releases, or one taking a look back over the years at the best vintages.
Usually they take place at hired event spaces, hospitality venues (restaurants / hotels), the winery in question and other locations with the required facilities. They can be a drop-in masterclass all the way up to a sit down dinner masterclass and food pairing, though most times they will be an individual event with a set time and duration with a selection of wines to be showcased.
“I have been to many masterclasses both in London and abroad. I have attended those which have been put on just for myself which are usually with the wine maker during a winery visit to the most amazing occasions taking place at glorious locations across Europe. The Giulio Ferrari Magnum vertical tasting I was invited to in Rome really sticks in my mind and importantly for the organisers, showcased the absolute immense aging potential for this label from Ferrari Trento.” Christopher Walkey
Wine Masterclasses will take place regularly with many happening each year in London and other major cities. Sometime these will take place during larger tasting events such as the Glass of Bubbly Show which run multiple sparkling wine masterclasses on the day, or sometimes they are independent events. Guests will be invited from within the industry to attend, though consumer masterclasses do take place also which usually are paid for ticketed events.
How do I find out about wine masterclasses? If you are a wine loving consumer then you will be restricted to just those masterclasses which are ticketed. Many times the hospitality venue will organise these so it will pay you to ask at your local wine serving outlet or to check out their updates on social media and look out for their ‘events page’. Event search themed websites such as Eventbrite are also a good idea to check out as many will be shared there with secured booking facilities. The wine industry likes to keep consumer events separate to wine industry events and very rarely will they be combined as the style of masterclass will be very different.
If you are already in the wine industry in one way or another, or looking to be so, then the best way to find out about wine masterclasses is to join email subscriptions to relevant wineries and also those companies that either represent them (ie PR / marketing agencies) or wine event agencies such as Glass of Bubbly who put on wine trade and press tastings. Do also check out the WSTA (the Wine and Spirit Trade Association) trade diary which lists up and coming wine tastings across the UK.
Likely guests at wine masterclasses for the trade include:
- Senior Wine Personalities
- Wine Judges
- Wine Reviewers
- Wine Writers / Bloggers
- Wine Authors
- Wine Vloggers
- Social Media Influencers
- Travel Journalists
- PR / Media / Press
- Hospitality Venue Owners / Staff
Good practices to adopt when attending wine masterclasses should include you giving some genuine feedback to the organiser(s) and the person / company who invited you ie the said PR agency. If you can, include a write up of the masterclass within your relevant media outlet such as a blog / article. On the day, do not be afraid to grab some photos / videos and if you can, share them on to social media with relevant tagging in and hashtags. Use wine review platforms such as Vivino to give further exposure for the wines tasted. Always say thank you and especially via a nice, warm email – It does take a fair amount of effort, to include time and finances, in order put on wine masterclasses and especially to make sure that they run problem free on the day.
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.