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News round up: All the world’s a (virtual) stage

Published:  24 April, 2020

As the pandemic continues to run it's grim course, news of new initiatives, charitable acts, mutual support and sharing continue to pour into Harpers' inbox, with the trade excelling itself when it come to showing an imaginative and caring face. Here are just some of those many acts and events that have caught our eye this week.

Naked Wines launched a $5m Covid Support Fund, saying it would channel up to $5m towards independent winemakers that had lost restaurant business, to encourage them to instead sell their wines through Naked Wines USA, UK and Australia.

Some relief for struggling bartenders is being offered by global bartending network Drinktank, which has introduced a new initiative to allow bartenders from around the world to take part in online work, with quick payment, to collaborate with, advise on and give insights to drinks brands that collaborate with the project.

Meanwhile, in another taste of on-trade turned online merchant, thirsty imbibers this hot weekend can ‘take a voyage through the wine regions of Portugal’ with Bar Douro’s new online Bottle Shop, which features 30 wines sourced from independent producers.

Liberty Wines has been staying in touch with its on-trade customers, running a series of ‘Meet the Winemaker’ online masterclasses via zoom. Upcoming sessions include Antonio Braga from Quinta da Romeira and Quinta de Azevedo on 28 April and Emilien Boutillat from Piper-Heidsieck on 30 April, with seession including Blank Canvas, Sperino, Montes, Spice Route and Pieropan to follow (by invitation only).

You can support Alderman’s Drinks (founders of Didsbury Gin and ARLU Rum) by buying a bottle or three after the company announced that it is donating 15,000 disposable face masks and 20,000 bottles of hand sanitiser to the Greater Manchester Local Authorities.

Wine members’ club 67 Pall Mall continues with its thrice weekly online tastings and discussions, when the club’s top sommeliers and guest winemakers host masterclasses, which have been made available to all. Each session has a different theme and those joining in are encouraged to open a bottle that aligns with the given subject.

Staying with somms, the UK Sommelier Association, is inviting people to “become a wine expert from the comfort of your own home”, offering online courses via its website.

The Symington Port family is to host #PortLoversUnite, a digital gathering taking place on 3 May, which will see Port lovers from around the world share a glass of Port via a live video conference with members of the family to raise funds to support humanitarian relief and medical services in conflict areas. Attendees are being invited to make a donation to the Red Cross appeal, Port glass in hand.

On 29 April Flint Wines will celebrate one of the most evocative and compelling wine regions in the world with its Virtual Mosel Tasting 2020, co-hosted by Flint Wines directors Gearoid Devaney MS and Jason Haynes. Participants are being offered a very reasonable £150 mixed case of wines, to enable them to taste along, with producers Sarah Löwenstein of Heymann-Löwenstein, Peter Griebeler of Weingut Heinrichshof and Mihailo Martinovic of Joh. Jus. Prüm along for the (virtual) ride.

Graft Wine Company has launched a series of online tastings with winemakers with the last in the initial trio of tastings on 29 April featuring Matthew van Heerden. A former international young winemaker of the year and recipient of an award for the world's best Chardonnay, he makes just two wines - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - from “exceptional” vineyards in Elgin. Each of the tastings are set to kick off at 7pm and can be tuned into by going to Graft’s Instagram page and clicking on its live feed.

TV personality and wine expert Joe ‘Wadders’ Wadsack and leading drinks communications agency Cube Communications have announced their support of The Drinks Trust’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund in the shape of The Drinks Coach UK - tune in on YouTube.

Follow wine TV star and Harpers columnist Joe Fattorini has been broadcasting out of his attic on a host of wine trade-related topics, with the sessions going out on YouTube, available for free to all who wish to tune in.

This week also saw the launch of Black Cow Vodka's 'Waste Not Want Not' series to support chefs, with the first one going live on Black Cow Vodka's instagram and website on 22 April at 6pm with Mark Hix. These sessions will then run weekly, with other chefs confirmed to take part including Mitshel Ibrahim (Ombra), Matthew Scott (Cub), Lara Santo and George McLeod (Silo) and Mircel McSween (The Court) - with more to be announced.

And, last but not least, James Hocking Wine is now delivering plants – free of charge – with local wine orders.  As well as being a Californian specialist importer, Hocking is an award-winning horticulturalist in his spare time and has a number of plants now available that were destined for the cancelled shows. He is also giving away bottles of “Hockings Tomato Feed” – his secret formula...