What are virtual wine tastings? Online wine classes are nothing new. Highly respected wine institutions like Wine Spectator and the University of California at Davis have been offering online courses for years. Interest in such programs was high at the outset, with a peak in 2012. These programs did not attract a large audience, as they were hindered by clunky technology and confusing systems.
This type of online learning may not be new, but it has been transformed recently. What used to be a dry attempt to imitate a classroom experience is now a fun and engaging experience. Today, there are many online wine classes worth attending. The impetus for the sudden change came with our communal need for social connection and distraction during the COVID-19 shutdown.
How the Pandemic Changed Wine School
While the pandemic helped launched this new type of wine education, it was not the only cause. The phenomenon could not have happened without two pieces of ubiquitous business software: PowerPoint and Zoom. The near-universal acceptance of those apps reduced the friction of adaptation. Nearly every wine lover could intuitively understand the new online environment.
For the attendees, virtual wine tastings are a great way to learn about wine from the comfort of their sofa. They also socialize with people who share the same love of wine. This format often is a great value to the student. Pricing is usually a fraction of what a class at a brick-and-mortar classroom. For instance, a Bordeaux class at a top-ranked wine school typically costs around $100, but the online version only costs $25. Plus, we found that students get more one-on-one time with instructors during online classes than the traditional ones.
The Top Online Wine Classes
The following are the best online wine schools currently offering virtual wine tastings. This list is specifically for live-streamed wine classes run by a certified wine instructor. We’ve been attending these classes during the worst of COVID-19, and we’ve found the top three instructors to be Laura Maniec Fiorvanti (Corkbuzz), Alana Zerbe (Philadelphia Wine School), and Elizabeth Schneider (Wine for Normal People). These three ladies have kept us sane throughout the pandemic, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts (and glasses)!
1. Online Wine School (WSoP)
A relative newcomer to the online wine class experience, this project came out out of the gate on fire. These classes took the best parts of Corkbuzz and Napa Wine School’s programs and blended them together in a way that is innovative and fun. Thankfully, they also took the cue from Laura and priced their classes at $15/person. This is a project by the Wine School of Philadelphia, one of our top-ranked wine schools. For this project, they brought in some new talent who work very well in this online format. Keith Wallace, the founder of the school is often in class, offering color commentary and responding to questions. It was a close call whether Corkbuzz or the Online Wine School were going to top this list, but the high quality and interactivity of the classes here put them over the top. Link.
Anyone who is running an online wine class should look to Laura Maniec Fiorvanti and Corkbuzz. They have been knocking out home runs since this NYC wine school-cum-wine bar hit the scene. While they never offered professional certification classes, many of Corkbuzz’s classes are geared toward the wine professional. These online classes are polished, organized, and offer plenty of social interaction. Priced at $15, these classes are hard to beat for the quality for value. A lot of respect for Laura for putting her students before her fame. Even when she’s not teaching, she is often in class offering commentary. Link
3. Wine For Normal People
We like the programming, and the instructor is engaging,
but there were some negatives that forced us to put it into the last-place spot on our list. First, is the complicated ordering system. Why are each ticket valid for two people, so if a singleton wants to sit in, they have to ask for a discount? The needless complexity detracted from an otherwise fine experience. The programming is also expensive. At $42/ticket, it’s much more expensive than most of the other classes on offer.
The sign up
With the newly upgraded experience, WFNP has jumped up in the rankings. These classes are taught by Elizabeth Schneider. She’s the host of the super-popular podcast Wine for Normal People, the author of the titular bestselling book, and she’s one of our favorite wine people. Elizabeth speaks truth to power in a way that very few people dare to in the trade. At $25/person, the pricing is on par with industry standards. Link.
4. Napa Valley Wine Academy
I am surprised these classes ended up this far down from the top of this list. This wine school is one of our top-rated schools. Their use of technology-led us to believe these classes were going to blow everyone else out of the water. Sadly, the content and delivery were not up to the level of their other offerings. At $49/ticket, it’s also the most expensive virtual wine class on this list. That is not to say these programs are not worthwhile. Their speakers are engaging, and much knowledge can be taken from these classes. However, there were many technical and organizational issues around their programming. Once those issues have been addressed, we expect these classes to jump to the list’s top. Link.
Vino To Go There used to be a great wine school in Toronto called iYellow. One of their former instructors Tasha Taylor opened up a school/wine event company in 2018 called Vino To Go. Her classes are pure fun and pizzaz. Not the most in-depth of classes, but they are really great social events with plenty of wine education in the mix. Tickets are reasonably priced at $13/person. For someone who is looking for more in-depth education, though, I would suggest looking elsewhere. Currently, the website is not online. The Cellar Muse Tanya Morningstar Darling is an excellent wine educator. She is on the teaching staff at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seatle College. Her online wine classes are well-structured and dynamic. They do a touch of the professorial lecture vibe, but only a touch. The execution of the video and lecture was not smooth and felt a little amateurish on that front. We did find it nearly impossible to navigate here website. Online wine classes were listed under “Master Class and Webinar.” Plus the pricing was high, at $39/person. Like many of the offerings at the bottom of this list, pricing seems too high for the production values of the class. Tanya is now offering mostly pre-recorded classes, which are priced at $25. Gastro Local Originally called NYC Food and Wine Trails, Gastro Local is the brainchild of Tatiana Gana. These classes are fun and have hit the top three largely because they are comparable to other online wine classes on this list, but with one big difference: they are free. Sadly, these classes are no longer offered.