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On lockdown, BURO. restaurant reviewer Frankie McCoy is testing the best virtual food and drink experiences - first up, wine tasting


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There will come a point for everyone in our brave new self-isolated Very Very Online world that we suspect we have fallen down the rabbit hole. Don't worry, we're all mad here in Quarantineland - the best people usually are. Please see for evidence this extraordinary surgeon  and this iconic rock lyricist.

The moment I realised I'd wandered through the looking glass was last Friday night at 7.55pm. It was 25 minutes into an Instagram Live wine tasting (yes, good - admirable innovation) with Elliot Awin (yes, good - a friendly, unpretentious wine importer) on the first of three delicious wines delivered to my door (yes, good - quarantine-respecting community service), when Proudlock off Made in Chelsea appeared on split screen in an orange wig to demand whether there is wine made from bananas. Wait, what?

It had all been going so well. As someone who has spent the last 10 days looking away from the Guardian’s Coronavirus Live blog only to brush dead skin off my desiccated, dead-looking (but covid-free!) hands, I am in awe of those pragmatic entrepreneurs who have thought, I'll just Zoom my yoga classes or, I'll just teach sourdough baking on Instagram. Or, like Elliot, I’ll just team up with Battersea wine shop Pull the Cork to launch an Isolation Tasting Box: £45 for three bottles of wine delivered to your door, which he then talks you through on Instagram Live.


As a fairly amateur wine drinker, I am very much here for the informality and ingenuity of doing this on a flat-bound Friday night. When I join the Live video at 7.30pm, there are already dozens of people watching the cheery Elliot in his orange beanie and check shirt. 'Alright, lumberjack!' reads one of the many, many comments bubbling up the screen. Banter.

And for a while, it’s really interesting as Awin talks us ninety viewers through the benefits of decanting, of different corkscrews and different wine glasses. Perhaps we could have got to the the first wine a little quicker, a super fresh white blend from Alantejo in Portugal, so delicious in its mineral fruitiness that we have already drunk two thirds of the bottle. Elliot instructs us to sniff, taste and comment on what notes we’re getting - "apple!" "kiwi!" - and then, oh, curiouser and curiouser! Suddenly the screen splits and there in the bottom half loom the faces of the glistening influencers Emma Louise Connolly and Ollie Proudlock. Suddenly the number of viewers jumps to 900; the comments change from "lychee and kiwi?" to "omg you guys are the BEST couple, emma is so perfect" Hmmm. For a moment we seem to stay on track as Elliot describes the phenolic ripeness in grapes, how we should expect to be getting tropical fruits - yes, great, lovely - and then Proudlock asks about banana wine, and it all collapses. The next two reds - a highly smashable raspberryish Cotes du Rhone blend and a thicker, rather overbearing Shiraz-heavy Stellenbosch blend that I struggled with - pass in a blur as we hear about how Emma’s teeth feel furry, how Emma and Proudlock prefer red to white (all red wine? To all white wine?) and what Proudlock’s thoughts are on the authenticity of corks. At one point, and to be fair I am no longer sober, I think someone describes the Stellenbosch as the Spencer Matthews of red. Which, actually, fair.

Look, whatever floats your boat. I far preferred Elliot’s Isolation Tasting when it was just him, taking the wine semi-seriously. But I'm not an MIC fan, I don’t loooooove influencers. Lots of people are and do - nearly a thousand of them tuned in at one point, thanks to Emma and Proudlock's presence; people who therefore felt connected and entertained on a socially-distanced Friday night. People who may now sign up to Elliot’s next box, or order booze from another independent wine shop, or attend someone else’s virtual wine tasting (there are loads out there; would also recommend Gus Gluck of Quality Wines) - thereby injecting some much needed cash and encouragement into a hospitality industry currently drowning in the face of coronavirus. Watch, order, buy, support, anyone you can, and drink up the mad brilliance of people’s ingenuity.

Elliot’s next virtual wine tasting with Pull The Cork is Saturday 28th March at 7.30pm on @elliotawin. Buy your wines HERE.

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