Wine tastings tend to follow a standard formula. Think cavernous rooms edged with stained tables and wall-to-wall bottles, staffed by (hopefully) enthusiastic producers and sales people. Ranked spittoons and dirty glasses are the order of the day; a formula which has worked perfectly well for decades.

But the tides are turning.

April saw a tasting hosted by two Loire wine associations and Winegrowers of New Zealand to promote Sauvignon Blanc Day. Also breaking with the tasting convention, Swirl Wine Group brought together wines from two of Italy’s greatest DOCGs, Brunello and Barolo, for a tasting aptly entitled “The Italian Kings”. This subversion of tradition wasn’t just for press inches: from the point of view of those attending, it was a covetable opportunity to compare and contrast. The appeal was clear from the bustling events – not to mention the calibre of those attending.

Tastings which combine the opportunity to taste an esoterically curated range of wines, combined with thought provoking insight are where the industry seems to be moving. It echoes the trend in successful independents to take a multi-faceted approach which encompasses more than one way to enjoy wine: taste and explore via enomatics or BTG, drink with a meal, attend events, even pick up a ready meal – the options are endless.

This year’s London Wine Fair was a case in point, with a heightened focus on what some may think of as ‘add-ons’: masterclasses, industry briefings and focussed tasting zones. Together with the National Wine Agency of Georgia, Swirl and Sarah Abbott MW capitalised on the growing industry acknowledgement that the trade isn’t just about liquid in a glass – it’s also about the cultural, social and emotional impact of wine.

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