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just a taste

The finest virtual tastings to fill both your stomach and your empty diary. Joanna Taylor tucks in…

If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that pretty much any activity can be done from the comfort of the sofa. And that includes gorging on gourmet food and drink in the name of educating our palettes. From pokey English cheeses to fiery Scottish whisky, many of Britain’s artisan purveyors — be they much loved or under-the-radar — have launched home tasting packages, available nationwide. Here are our favourites.

FOR DAIRY DREAMERS

In need of another excuse to devour a block of cheese? A virtual education by The Cheese Bar is the answer to your prayers. Each month its head cheesemonger, Sam Wilkin, hosts at least one British cheese tasting where he pairs each slice with a different tipple. Then later in February he’s teaming up with Ric Brown of The Kernel Brewery on a virtual cheese and beer tasting to discuss how beer can be dairy’s best friend.
From £37 per person

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A SLICE OF THE ACTION

Gather all your carnivorous friends because it’s time to
ham it up. The Great British Charcuterie Company’s virtual tasting celebrates the very best that the UK has to offer. From Cornish seaweed and cider
salami to Calcott Farm British chorizo and British beef biltong, this selection of cured meats
is a step up from Tesco’s deli counter. Private bookings are available for eight or more,
with tasters able to tailor their virtual gathering to their personal tastes. The company also offers a range of British cheese, wine and pâté if you should wish to broaden your horizons.

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THE PICK
& MIX

Created by a stellar team of award-winning sommeliers and experts in wine, beer, cider and mixology, Tasting Online’s food and drink pairing event is a Zoom experience like no other. Entirely bespoke, tasters can dream up a menu of ingredients they would like to learn how to pair with alcohol and non-alcoholic alternatives, or sit back and let the team take creative control. The team can deliver the ingredients to your door or if you’re looking for something to do, provide you with a shopping list. Try it on your own or as part of a virtual group. Just don’t let your weird uncle Jerry curate the menu.
From £180

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GO AU NATUREL

For those committed to exploring ethically produced, low-intervention wines, Pull The Cork is the one for you. Available exclusively to subscribers, The Discovery Club selects and delivers six distinctly different bottles of vino to your door each month. Three of these bottles are then dissected at members-only virtual tastings hosted by experts from Pull The Cork HQ. Designed to build upon each member’s knowledge, little or large, spending time with this inviting community of drinkers is about as good as lockdown gets. Plus, subscribers get 15 per cent off all repurchases. Drink up.
From £99 a month

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JOIN THE BREW CREW

Aching for a pint down the pub? Round up the gang for a virtual beer tasting with the team behind Redchurch brewery, experts in crafting everything from pale ale to deep, dark stout here in London. Aimed at both complete novices and self-proclaimed brew enthusiasts in groups of six or more, this tasting focuses on educating wannabe beer buffs on Redchurch’s unique processes, the differences between six of the brand’s award-winning offerings and how to sniff out the distinctive notes in each.

All of the boozy essentials are included in the price, but we highly recommend ordering a portion of the moreish Masala Curry Crunchy Coated Peanuts too.
£25 per person

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TIME FOR TEA

Pop the kettle on because it’s time for not one, but three, cups of tea. Shake up your regular routine of endless builder’s brews with a Virtual Tea Flight masterclass by Jing, the capital’s leading supplier of chic, ethically sourced specialist teas from across the globe.

Armed with a sleek glass tea-iere, sand timer and a selection of the brand’s best-selling varieties including the Assam breakfast, Jade Sword green tea, Iron Buddha and jasmine silver needle, each virtual attendee will be guided through their choice of three brews by one of the brand’s gurus. Here, sippers are tutored in the origins of the leaves, their health benefits and how long to brew each one.
£36 per person

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WIN WITH GIN

If you find yourself looking for meaning at the bottom of your Tuesday night gin & slim, book in for The Distilled History of Gin with Madam Geneva and Gent. Hosted by Emma Parker and Wil Watts, who usually offer gin-based walking tours, these connoisseurs know their juniper berries. An evening of sipping, listening and laughing, you’ll hear everything good, bad and ugly there is to know about the spirit, in the company of an expertly curated selection of historic and delicious gins.
From £49 per person

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WARM YOUR
COCKLES

If you’re the type of person who thinks mixing whisky with Coke is sacrilege, you’ll love this. Milroys of Soho, an institution famed for its tip-top whisky, offers an array of tastings to meet your every desire. The bar and shop offers regular public virtual events with the likes of The GlenDronach Distillery Co, as well as private sessions hosted by their expert team.

The latter are sold depending on the taster’s experience. At the lower end of the know-it-all scale, the Discovery tasting is great for those looking to gather a base knowledge, while the Dream Drams tasting enables enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the rarest whiskies from closed ‘ghost’ distilleries, plus very old and unusual vintages. Swanky.
From £35 per person

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CAFFEINE
CONFIDENTIAL

Your daily grab-and-go coffee may be off the cards while we’re all confined indoors, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer a below-average brew. Indulge in a private coffee tasting with the bean pros at Stokes. Guided by one of the brand’s master brewers, attendees will gulp their way through a range of blends while being tutored in how to pick out the nuances of each, understand the differences in beans based on origin and type, and get to grips with how to steep the perfect cup.
£29.99 per person

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CHOC-A-BLOCK fun

Step away from the jumbo-sized Galaxy — because tough times call for luxe treats. Rococo Chocolates, creator of some of Britain’s most beautifully packaged confectionary, is hosting both public and private virtual chocolate tastings for those with a sweet tooth. Each taster is sent a selection, including the best-selling praline quail eggs and its expertly sourced orange milk chocolate. Plus, every ticket holder gets a voucher to spend at the brand’s online store after the event. Try not to snaffle all of the goodies before the tasting though.
£60 per person

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go for home-grown

Honest Grapes offers every kind of wine tasting you can imagine. Packed with virtual public events, the brand has upcoming masterclasses in everything from sustainable, organic wines to meet the grower sessions. Our top choice is its private by request tutoring in British wines, featuring the best red, white and sparkling delights from English terrain — a must for anyone passionate about supporting the local economy. But if you refuse to sip and spit (a must among experts), don’t expect to remember much.
From £75

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BREAK BREAD
WITH THE MED

Upgrade your taste in cheffy ingredients with a lesson or
two by the brains at Belazu. Widely acknowledged as a leading authority in quality Mediterranean ingredients, an hour or two on Zoom with the brand’s resident expert Robert Curbishley will change the way you buy olive oil, vinegar and olives.

Hosted as specialist guided sessions in one ingredient at a time, at the speciality vinegar virtual masterclass and table olive virtual masterclass tasters can explore Moscatel, sherry, Riesling and Merlot blends, discover how to tell the difference between Petit Lucques and Bella di Cerignola olives and understand the differences in each fermenting or curing process. Next stop: the south of France, hopefully. From £35

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