Wine tasting with no real crowd or even place

ON BLOGS

February 25, 2007|By TROY McCULLOUGH

There are some minimal components needed to hold a successful wine tasting.

First, of course, there's the wine - you'll need lots of that. And it helps to have a place for people to gather - an apartment, home or, better still, a rustic winery. And an enthusiastic crowd certainly never hurts.

But a new world syrah/shiraz tasting earlier this month had none of these things - at least not in the traditional sense - but by all accounts the event was a resounding success.

Edward loved the dark berry and rich chocolate notes of the Thorn Clark Shotfire Shiraz. Kelly was impressed with a full-bodied syrah from British Columbia's Kettle Valley Winery, calling it "very very nice, complicated, tasty and interesting." And Brendon was truly enamoured with South Africa's Cederberg Shiraz.

In all, 50 people sampled more than 70 wines in the tasting. The event itself, however, was virtual, part of a monthly online wine event called Wine Blogging Wednesday that has attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd of wine lovers over the past couple of years.

People participate by acquiring and sampling their own bottles of wine, and then posting photos and notes about the wine to their respective blogs. Different bloggers play host to the event each month and are responsible for choosing a theme and coordinating all of the posts.

This month's host, Tim Elliott of WineCast.net, wrote up a summary post that included brief notes of the syrah and shirazes that were sampled and offered links back to the participating bloggers' tasting notes. From the summary page, people meandered onto the various participating blogs and commented on the bloggers' notes, offered buying tips and swapped food-pairing suggestions.

The atmosphere was enthusiastic and chummy, and felt suspiciously like a traditional wine tasting.

But still.

A collection of blog posts, no matter how well-written, surely is a cold, cruel substitute for an actual wine event. A virtual tasting lacks the ambience, the face-to-face interaction, and, well, the sheer volume of wine that make up a typical tasting event. Real wine tastings can be romantic, date-worthy affairs. Virtual wine tastings ... not so much.

Yet, undeniably, wine enthusiasts are enjoying these virtual events. They're educating each other on wines from around the world. They're networking and making friends. And they're having fun along the way.

The idea for Wine Blogging Wednesday was conceived in 1994 by blogger and wine enthusiast Lenn Thompson (lennthompson. typepad.com). The tasting has been going strong from the start - "Blogging and wine tasting? Who would have ever thought the two could be married in such a unique way," gushed an early participant - and it just concluded its 30th event.

Already, plans for Wine Blogging Wednesday No. 31 are under way. The theme: Box wines.

"It's time to think outside the bottle!" announced host, Roger from BoxWines.org, to much enthusiasm.

They may not be in the same room drinking the same wine at the same time, but these wine bloggers seem to be having too much fun to care.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

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