Virtual Wine Class Set for D&W

Following in the steps of vineyards, wine critics and specialty wine shops, D&W Fresh Market is offering virtual wine tastings. The new Wireside Chats are free, one-hour online forums open to all levels of wine drinkers, according to promotional materials from D&W, a Spartan Stores' banner. The chats will be hosted by D&W wine experts, wine makers and other professional guests.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Following in the steps of vineyards, wine critics and specialty wine shops, D&W Fresh Market is offering virtual wine tastings.

The new “Wireside Chats” are free, one-hour online forums open to all levels of wine drinkers, according to promotional materials from D&W, a Spartan Stores' banner.

The chats will be hosted by D&W wine experts, wine makers and other professional guests. Participants will receive special offers.

Both daytime and evening chats will be held monthly beginning next month. For the nighttime events, participants are encouraged to purchase three featured wines at D&W's wine shops, and then log into the chat session to learn the “5-S” method of tasting: “swirl, sniff, sip, swish and savor.” Participants will be invited to discuss and share their impressions.

Wine-positioning mats and tasting notes can be printed for free before each class begins.

“Settle down in the comfort of your own home with your computer, and print the wine notes and positioning mats available for each tasting,” D&W writes in promotional materials.

The first chat, themed “Simply Cab-u-lous,” will be held Friday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. D&W Wine specialist Roz Mayberry will discuss three cabernet sauvignon wines: Root One (Chile), 14 Hands (Washington) and Wildhurst (Napa Valley, Calif.).

Other themes include merlot and wine-and-cheese pairing.

D&W even encourages shoppers to hold a virtual tasting party by telling friends to participate.

“The chats are an opportunity for everyone, so invite several friends with laptops to an entertaining and delicious in-home virtual tasting,” D&W states. “Talk about the wines — what you like, what you don't like, and make it a fun evening together.”

In addition to virtual tastings, the chain has scheduled monthly “high noon” daytime chats on Tuesdays at noon. Due to the time of day, there will be no tastings during these chats, only conversation about various wine topics, including: “What to serve with Beaujolais Nouveau,” “Is Wine Really Good for You?” and “Post Holiday Economy Wines.” Additionally, Spartan Stores' beer, wine and spirits buyer Greg VanOverloop will lead a discussion on “Wine for the Holidays.”

“It's an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about wine, learn what's new in our stores, and find out about special features and upcoming wine events,” according to D&W.

Beverage consultant Tom Pirko, president of Santa Ynez, Calif.-based Bevmark, said virtual tastings are a good idea because they provide wine shoppers with much-needed information.

“The way to sell wine is communication,” he said. “Even a minimal amount of information can drive profitability.”

Many wine shoppers are novices who are overwhelmed with the vast number of offerings, yet too intimidated to ask store associates for help. So letting them learn from the comfort of their own home may attract new consumers.

“The primary reason people don't buy more wine is that they don't have any idea of what's in a bottle,” said Pirko. “The consumer looks at the incredible selection and her head spins.”

Because of its higher retails, wine is a good category to invest in, said Pirko

“This is one part of the store where it's critical to have information,” he said.

The issue is so important that Bevmark is developing a service through which supermarkets can rent certified wine professionals for use in their store. The professional can answer questions and make pairing suggestions. Bevmark plans a similar service for supermarket produce departments to help people understand how to tell if fruit and vegetables are ripe, along with other information.