How Critics and Educators Are Working During Coronavirus Lockdown

How Critics and Educators Are Working During Coronavirus Lockdown

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures have drastically changed the way drinks judges and authors work.

Strictly speaking, virtual tastings aren’t a new phenomenon. Last year, Scotch distillery group John Dewar & Sons hoped to attract a new audience of young consumers by hosting a live whisky tasting on Amazon with malt master Stephanie McLeod and FT drinks writer Alice Lascelles.

But what was once a quirky new venture has now become something of a lifeline for those who make their money by writing and talking about wine, beer and spirits.

As bars and restaurants are closed and people are told to stay at home, educators and critics have been forced to think on their feet to stay connected with their students and keep doing what they love.

We’ve spoken to educators and experts across the wine, beer and spirits industries to find out what they’re doing to stay in touch with their respective communities and keep busy while the UK is in a coronavirus lockdown….

Scotch tasting with World Whisky Awards judge Felipe Schrieberg

Author and World Whisky Awards judge Felipe Schrieberg is teaming up with whisky subscription club The Dram Team to deliver whisky tasting kits and host a series of interactive online events over the next few months.

The whisky writer is hosting a whopping seven tastings per week: Tuesdays through Sundays with two sessions on Saturdays.

Anyone in the UK mainland will be able to enjoy the whisky and tasting experience from the comfort of their own home as long as they can log into Zoom.

The tastings will be hosted on Zoom, with tickets and vouchers available to purchase on and TimeOut. There will be 15 spots made available for each tasting session, which ensures the groups are intimate and allow attendees to ask questions without overloading the conference call.

The guests will then get a masterclass based on a selection of drams curated and delivered by The Dram Team, a whisky subscription club that delivers sample tasting packs specialising in unusual and varied whiskies. Tasting participants will receive 6 different whiskies to enjoy. Essentially, Schrieberg gets to keep hosting masterclasses despite being unable to physically connect with his clients, and the subscription service gets to add value to its product.

£2 from each ticket or voucher purchased on will also be donated to the Trussell Trust, a UK food bank network providing food for vulnerable people.

Schrieberg told db that, although the project is in its early stages, he wouldn’t say no to hosting digital tastings when the current lockdown measures ease up.

“We’ve yet to still run the first one and this is very new ground,” he said, “but in theory, yes, we do plan to keep running them if all goes well, though maybe perhaps not 7 sessions a week.”


The Live Virtual Whisky Tasting Masterclass – the details

Price: £35/£65 for two

Ticket link: here

Voucher link: here

Starting Wednesday 8 April

Tuesday-Friday: 6:00-8:00pm

Saturday: 5:00-7:00 pm, 7:30-9:30 pm,

Sunday: 4:00-6:00pm

A new podcast from an MW power couple

Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW are using their time together at home wisely, and have launched a podcast.

Called Wine Blast, the pair interview creative characters from the wine industry, cook together, test each other’s knowledge and answer all of your wine-related questions.

Wine Blast has already been in the works since last year, but as many tastings and competitions have been pushed back due to the UK’s lockdown measures, it seems there’s no harm in branching into podcasts right now.

However, acknowledging that the industry at large faces one of its greatest challenges in history, Barrie and Richards have added a series of ‘Wine Survival Guides’ to the release of their first two full-length episodes.

These special editions are “swift releases enabling wine people from all around the world to tell their story as events unfold”.

The aim will be to capture small moments of joy wine lovers are taking time to savour during their lockdown conditions, such as learning how to play ‘magnum Jenga’, and the joy of online wine tasting.

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