James Suckling: “I definitely think that online tastings can replace physical ones”

Monday November 23 2020 by Vitisphere

At 61, James Suckling is reported to have tasted and rated 225,000 wines since the start of his career.At 61, James Suckling is reported to have tasted and rated 225,000 wines since the start of his career. - Photo credit : Hong Kong Tourism Board

On November 21, James Suckling delivered his masterclass on New Wave Bordeaux. Presenting three wines in succession, he provided a cursory description before going through the tastings, showing photos of the vineyard and requesting feedback from the participants, right through to a final questions and answers session. The Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival is offering a total of 34 fee-paying online tastings with replays and tasting kits for those who take part.



From a professional and personal point of view, how are you managing a year put under pressure by Covid?

It’s been a difficult year like for everyone else under the pandemic but I have been lucky to be in Hong Kong. I have managed to taste and rate about 15,000 wines so far this year with my editors. Most of the tastings have been here in our office in the city. The shipping and logistics are easy because of Hong Kong’s no tax or duty policy on wines. This highlights Hong Kong’s role as the fine wine hub in Asia. And it’s the reason why I live and work in Hong Kong.


Did you organize video conference tastings before the pandemic?

I never did video conferencing tastings ever. In fact, the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival online tasting is my first one. However, I have had many Zoom tastings with wine producers each week, which is great. These Zoom tastings are normally quick, focused and efficient.


What are the key points for successfully managing a tasting by video conference (advertising on social media, getting the event timing right, preparing the keynote, effective logistics for wine shipping, asking for appropriate glasses at home/office, delivering informative details…)?

The key to managing a video tasting conference is to plan in advance and make sure everything is thought of just like a physical tasting. Using a written guide or sheet explaining the tasting and how it works as well as a timeline is very useful. I have an impression that most people who do these video tastings don’t prepare in advance. So they are not curated properly.


Do you manage an audience of wine professionals and consumers/enthusiasts differently?

I think that consumers are online to learn but also to have fun. So don’t make it too serious. Make it personal. Make it just like as if they were in the tasting room with you physically. I think a synopsis and question and answer are more important for professional sessions. So yes, they are different.


Can an online tasting replace a physical one?

I definitely think that online tastings can replace physical ones because of the efficiency and focus of the experience. And when everyone can travel again we will have a combination of both. I don’t think that physical tasting will ever go away completely because we as human beings enjoy socializing with a nice glass of wine!



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