COVID19: Cyprus winemaker beats lockdown with online tasting

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One of the leading winemakers of Cyprus turned to social media platforms and web-based communication to overcome obstacles created by the lockdown, by offering online tasting sessions and an opportunity for people to ‘wined down’.

Marcos Zambartas, the hands-on producer involved in every aspect of the family-run winery, has so far hosted several rounds of three different hour-long sessions, held separately in Greek and English, giving people the opportunity to taste eight of his wines, in the comfort of their homes.

During the past six weeks of lockdown, the young oenologist hosted wine tasting sessions via the Zoom platform engaging with 147 people, of whom 30 watched two sessions and 22 watched three sessions.

In order to take part, which was free, participants needed to pre-order some of the Zambartas wines, which were delivered in time, so that Marcos could guide the tastings on an equal footing with each participant. As a result, he sold 393 bottles through distributors Vassos Eliades.

By his own admission, Marcos was not too keen about web-based sessions, as he preferred for people to visit his estate at Ayios Amvrosios where he and his wife organise wine tasting.

“Before Covid-19 I considered ditching my smartphone to buy a telephone without internet. Then the online wine tasting sessions became the new wine tasting room of Zambartas Winery through Zoom,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

It was “20 hours well spent. An incredible journey that kept all of us sane during the April lockdown.!

The tasting sessions, that had more of a fun nature as participants interacted with their comments and heard Marcos’ own personal tasting notes, started with an introduction, “The synergy of four of our senses to appreciate wine”.

The young winemaker helped the uninitiated look at wine, smell it, feel it and taste it, giving a better understanding of some of the local grape varieties.

The first wine tasting included Zambartas Xynisteri 2019, Zambartas Rose 2019 and Zambartas Maratheftiko 2018, which at a cost of €33.70 for the three bottles, including delivery, was a steal, and very similar to what it would cost you off the shelf.

The next session took a closer look at reds, hence “A deeper look: Red winemaking and tasting”, this time tasting the Koukouvagia Red 2018, the Zambartas Mataro – Yiannoudi 2018 and the Zambartas Shiraz – Lefkada 2018. This time around, the cost was a most affordable €35.70 including delivery.

The Koukouvagia is a blend of Shiraz and Mataro, with Marcos feeling particularly proud of his new label, while a third session included wines from the recently introduced ‘single vineyard’ range, which is also proving popular.

Throughout the tasting sessions, Marcos was assisted by food writer and wine specialist Maria Masoura, who joined the discussion with her suggestions for the pairing of dishes and by explaining the characteristics of each wine, allowing the participants’ imagination to sometimes run wild and think of what ingredients they would use next to prepare the ultimate meal.

Rightly taking advantage of this downtime, to raise awareness about his wines, while allowing minds to travel beyond the confines of the home, Marcos’ online tasting has also opened an opportunity for many more entrepreneurs to think how best to engage with their potential markets.

But it does not end here. The second-generation Zambartas winemaker says there is “more to come”.