We all remember the feeling – the one of sociable anticipation as you step into a room full of guests or traverse your way into a busy bar, it was something we were all well acquainted with some 18 months ago. Tanners, like many other Shropshire venues had a programme full of events and in many instances had to ask people to book another date as we just couldn’t fit everything in. It was a joyful complacency and then everything stopped, suddenly… an essential halt of course. You might have enjoyed the busyness, the people-watching, or perhaps you looked for somewhere quieter to enjoy a break from a busy pre-covid world. For most of us these experiences have now changed; we grab our masks, have become accustomed to track and trace, table service and not being allowed to the bar but as we’re now more than a year into a pandemic and things have started to open-up, the country opens its doors, and many are waiting to be let back in. At a safe and sustainable pace, of course.

By midsummer of 2020, Zoom had become a novel familiarity for many industries, and the wine world was no different. Not one to stand still, tastings were offered under the name ‘A Taste of Tanners at Home’. Having received a taster case of wine, guests tuned in for an hour-long event on various themes that ranged from a Tour of Italy to a ‘Meet & Greet’ with producers. Whilst it was all rather different there was a very palpable unity, we were all in the same boat and of course there were laughs to be had from guests and hosts alike as we all learned the ropes of the newly hailed saviour of lockdown socialising, Zoom.

After the first virtual tasting spirits were high – we’d got through it, share screen had worked, Wi-Fi hadn’t dropped out, and most importantly the guests loved it. Phew! Greeting wine growers in person has always been a real perk, when they make the journey up to Shropshire, and with Zoom the possibilities were so much more. We ‘virtually’ met and tasted with Max Sichel from Bordeaux, Edwin Doran and his son Tom from South Africa and Guillaume Gonnet from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, amongst others. Meeting the team at top Argentinian producer, Don Cristobal was a real highlight with the winemaker, viticulturalist and owner all joining us on screen live from the middle of grape harvest in Argentina. 

A year down the line and screen fatigue was setting in, we started to accept that perhaps the idea of a face-to-face tasting might be a long way off or would never be part of the new normal. Emails came in thanking us for a lovely evening and cheerily informing us ‘we can’t wait to see you in person soon’ – an eternal optimism that kept us all smiling through the ‘my screen has frozen’ and the ‘I can’t find the link’ moments. Now, just as Zoom skills have been mastered, tastings are once again on the menu. But what will these new (old) tastings look like after Covid-19? And, most importantly, will they be safe?

Going to a wine tasting just might be the most exciting thing I’ll do this year! I appreciate, in a year we haven’t been able to do much, that doesn’t sound like high praise, but it is – the thought of happy customers and good catering is warming the cockles, even if we do have to relearn sociability. There is always that fear that with wine involved it could mean inhibitions and social distancing are likely to be lessened, but we are ensuring all measures are in place to tackle these risks. Tanners on Wyle Cop has seen many things over the years, the fabric dating back to Tudor times, so it seems heart-warming that it can once again open its arms. Tours of the historic cellars are a very popular feature, and they are soon to recommence. Until then, you can be seated and enjoy the delights of good company, good food, good wine and a sneak peek behind the scenes at one of our Wine Suppers.

‘Mrs Beeton Presents’, for example will follow a traditional Victorian menu and accompanying wines – and your hosts, me included, will be in 19th Century attire and encouraging guests to do the same! Otherwise it is a delight to see the Sabrina boat motoring up and down the river while sightseers wave from the Quarry lawns or sit at the tables on Victoria Quay.

Safety is paramount but let us say that having navigated our way through choppy seas, there’s a little piece of Eden on the horizon, where for a couple of hours we can eat, drink and be merry.