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Virtual wine tasting sessions hosted by Secret Garden restaurant in Sudbury prove a big hit amid coronavirus pandemic




A Sudbury restaurant, forced to adapt its business due to the coronavirus pandemic, has seen its virtual wine tasting sessions prove a big hit with customers.

Stéphane Chapotot and his business partner Alain Jacq, who own The Secret Garden in Friars Street, had to close in March and consolidate their café into their restaurant, next door in Buzzards Hall.

The restaurant reopened in July with social distancing measures in place.

Stephane Chapotot and his business partner Alain Jacq have found a novel way of continuing part of their hospitality business despite coronavirus restrictions by offering virtual wine tasting evenings. ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (42889099)
Stephane Chapotot and his business partner Alain Jacq have found a novel way of continuing part of their hospitality business despite coronavirus restrictions by offering virtual wine tasting evenings. ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (42889099)

Stéphane has run his wine tasting evenings at The Secret Garden for 12 years and has 20 years’ experience as a sommelier, but the restrictions of the pandemic meant he had to think around how to continue to run them, and he came up with the idea of virtual tastings.

He said: “Everything was so uncertain because of coronavirus, and I didn’t know how long it would be before I could do physical tastings again, so I bought lots of 100ml glass bottles to fill with wine and I contacted a few customers who live close to The Secret Garden to see if they would be open to having a virtual tasting session to see how it went.

“Now we hold the tastings online via Zoom with up to 30 customers every four weeks. It has been very popular,” he added.

Stephane Chapotot and his business partner Alain Jacq have found a novel way of continuing part of their hospitality business despite coronavirus restrictions by offering virtual wine tasting evenings. ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (42889100)
Stephane Chapotot and his business partner Alain Jacq have found a novel way of continuing part of their hospitality business despite coronavirus restrictions by offering virtual wine tasting evenings. ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (42889100)

Stéphane selects a wine region or grape variety and provides the tasting notes for the evening, which lasts around 90 minutes.

Customers collect a box containing five wines and some homemade bread from the restaurant on the afternoon of the day of the tasting. The online session, which starts at 6.30pm, costs £19.

People can also buy a meal prepared by Alain Jacq and his staff for £5, which they can pop in the oven whilst they are enjoying the wine tasting.

The sessions also include a mystery wine and, if customers correctly guess the grape and the country by emailing the restaurant after the session, they can win a bottle.

Anyone interested in taking part in the evenings can contact the restaurant on 01787 321301.