There’s been a boom in online wine courses and virtual tastings over the past year, and ongoing travel restrictions mean things look to continue that way at the beginning of 2021.
The beauty of online wine courses, of course, is that you can still deepen your wine knowledge wherever you are.
Here is a selection of courses for a range of ability levels and prices, compiled by leading educators and trade bodies around the world. You’ll also find a few additional online resources and tastings to look out for.
If you enjoy them, you could always try hosting your own virtual wine tasting, too.
Top online wine courses
Can you name every Bourgogne climat? Burgundy’s regional wine board, the BIVB, has revamped its online learning resources to including new content and updated rules on appellations.
Although it’s mostly aimed at the trade, the course is free for everyone. There are four modules, taking around 20 minutes each, followed by a quiz at the end. Topics include grape varieties, appellations, food pairing and tasting wine.
Available: Anytime, via the BIVB website. Languages: English, French, Chinese, Japanese. Price: Free.
This online wine course run by the University of Adelaide made headlines in 2016 when more than 11,000 people signed up.
The course runs over six weeks and is designed to take a few hours each week. It is still free, although you can pay for a verified certificate once completed.
The course is designed to help you describe the taste and aroma of wine, understand grapevines and vineyard methods, and compare different winemaking techniques.
According to the course description, you can even virtually ‘make your own wine’ once you’re done. There’s only one way to find out…
The Champagne regional body, Comité Champagne, has also launched its own online course to help create more experts on France’s premier fizz.
This course is divided into classic and premium sections.
Classic is free and covers Champagne production methods, terroir, the history of the region and how different Champagnes taste in the glass. It takes around five hours to complete.
For €49, the premium version gives you access to extra learning videos, the chance to test your knowledge and a certificate of completion.
California’s UC Davis is a world-famous institution when it comes to wine research, and many top winemakers have graduated from its classrooms.
As Decanter’s Jane Anson put it, university staff have taught a ‘dizzying array of rockstar winemakers from Christian Moueix to Cathy Corison to Alberto Antonini‘.
The university also offers an Introduction to Wine and Winemaking course online.
It’s not free, but it’s comprehensive. Learn about wine regions around the world, as well as the winemaking process, how to read wine labels, the basics of wine tasting and the history of wine.
You can do this either as a standalone course, or use it as stage one of the Winemaking Certificate programme, which can also be taken online but takes two years to complete.
There is also an online tasting course ‘sensory techniques for wine analysis’, designed to be taken at your own pace, across 4 to 6 weeks.
‘This self-paced course will help you take the first steps toward understanding the physiological process of wine tasting.’
Various, San Francisco Wine school
San Francisco Wine school has made more courses available online.
According to its website, most of the regular class will be available via live webinar. ‘Custom tasting kits are included with each class and available for delivery to 43 states [of the US],’ it adds.
Options include the Certified Specialist ($1,095), professional and sommelier-focused courses, including wine service, plus introductory courses, such as:
- The Introduction to blind tasting ($95)
- TheIntroduction to food pairing ($95).
- There are also options to focus on a particular region or grape variety.
Various, Napa Valley Wine Academy
Recommended by Vicki Denig in her guide to US online wine tasting options, the Napa Valley Wine Academy has a range of courses for all abilities that are now being offered online.
Want to get an in-depth understanding of a region? The Rioja Wine Diploma is a free course that takes you through Rioja’s classifications, grape varieties, winemaking techniques and wine styles.
There is approximately 15 hours of learning, and there are review questions at the end of each module (you need pass to progress in some cases). You’ll also find a final exam at the end of the course.
Other course options include wine tourism, trade and distribution, and wine educating.
Other online learning resources for wine lovers
Decanter Know Your Wine app
Decanter’s own learning app, Know Your Wine, helps you fit-in wine learning around everyday life. It uses a technique called ‘s p a c i n g’ – or what some have called ‘spaced repetition’ – to deliver learning in highly efficient short bursts. It’s currently available on iPhone only. You can learn more and download the app here.
The Decanter archive of wine quizzes is also a great way to test yourself when revising for exams.
The WSET’s globally-recognised qualifications are generally seen as the formal training one needs when pursuing a career in wine, but it has also seen a rise in students beyond the wine world who are keen to improve their knowledge.
Courses are run online and in-person, both directly and via affiliated institutions, although check with your local provider about the latest news regarding the coronavirus situation.
The WSET Online classroom teaches in English, but affiliated course providers can deliver courses in local languages through online conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
The WSET School London is now offering a ‘blended learning’ programme for its students, giving the option to continue their studies online through digital classes, webinars and live Q&A sessions. Online exams have now been launched for Level 1 and 2 Awards.
Many of your favourite wine producers have switched to providing masterclasses via social media channels and websites, as a result of the pandemic and travel restrictions.
Decanter also has launched online masterclasses. The next event, featuring Château Cos d’Estournel, has now sold out, but you can still purchase a viewing only ticket (no wines included, free for Premium subscribers).
Keep your eyes peeled for our next one. Decanter Premium members can view the Château Palmer session from November 2020 here.
There are also plenty of virtual events run by merchants and wineries themselves that give wine lovers the chance to meet winemakers and cellar teams. Those who have done online sessions include Ornellaia, Nyetimber, Churchill’s Port and Ridge Vineyards, to name just a few.
First published April 2020 and updated in February 2021.