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Our online Rioja wine event brought Co-op Members together for a masterclass with expert producers and buyers, and gave two lucky members a ‘unique, money can’t buy experience’. Paula Campbell and Helen Atherton tell us what they thought of the event. 

Fun and inclusive 

Looking for alternative activity during lockdown, Helen heard about the Rioja wine event via her regular Co-op Join In email and thought “it sounded different”, while Paula spotted the hour-long session on the Co-op app and was surprised to learn it was free to join. 

Paula enjoyed connecting online with around 350 other Co-op Members to hear from Chema Ryan, winemaker at Muriel Wines, and Javier Murua, head of the Muriel Wines Group. 

“From the minute I joined the Zoom video call, it felt like I was amongst friends,” she says. 

“The way the session was organised by the Co-op team was welcoming, down to earth, and accessible – regardless of whether you were knowledgeable about wine or not. 

“It was lovely to see complete strangers of different ages, backgrounds and from all over the country engaging with each other via the chat function. What brought them together was that they were all Co-op Members, and they liked red wine. What a great idea.” 

Helen agreed: “It proved a most interesting evening: not a wine-tasting, but an informative chat by the producers backed by excellent slides, maps and photos of their Spanish vineyard and all areas of their wine production.” 

While there was no expectation to buy a bottle of the Irresistible Rioja Crianza, Paula was happy that her local Co-op stocked it as she “wanted to enjoy the full experience” but would have been happy to enjoy an alternative wine, as Helen did. 

Winning feeling 

As well as learning about serving suggestions and food pairing ideas, members were able to ask the experts their wine related questions in a live Q&A. 

“It was fantastic to be able to unmute and ask a question directly to the producers,” says Paula, who wanted to know a bit more about the wine barrels that Chema and Javier used. 

“How many times do you get to talk to a wine expert like that, let alone a wine producer in another country in the middle of a pandemic. It was absolutely amazing.” 

And that was before they discovered that they’d won the chance to enjoy a tapas hamper and an exclusive Zoom dinner party with Chema and Javier, which was “just the icing on the cake”. 

Unique experience 

Paula and her friend Suzi Finighan found the tapas evening “uplifting”, describing the chance to speak personally with Chema and Javier over dinner as an “absolute honour”. 

They also enjoyed being able to share the experience with Helen and her husband Tom too. 

“From buying a bottle of wine and joining Co-op and its members at an online event, to enjoying a special tapas evening meal while speaking to the producers that make and grow the wine, all from the comforts of our own homes, was fantastic,” says Paula. 

“To win an actual experience like that; it’s something that money just can’t buy.” 

Even receiving the tapas hamper – which included a selection of meats, cheese, sardines, anchovies, and olives – as well as a bottle of Rioja Crianza and Muriel Tempranillo, was “an exciting experience,” she says. 

“The food was delicious and there were some unusual items that we hadn’t tasted before.” 

As well as discussing wine, the party chatted about everything from Brexit and climate change to staffing, production, and holidays. 

“It was nice to learn more about the people behind the wines, especially their charity work providing education for children in Sierra Leone and Cambodia, and how much they value community and how sad they felt during the last harvest when they were unable to meet wine suppliers from different regions due to coronavirus,” says Paula. 

“It really felt like we’d had a night out with friends without going out.” 

Connecting together 

Paula, who regularly shops in her local Co-op in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, would never have thought to join a wine event online before lockdown, but would encourage other Co-op Members to get involved. 

“Joining in gave me a real sense of connection and belonging. It also made me realise that behind every bottle of wine in my Co-op store is a similar story, and that’s just amazing.” 

Helen, who is a regular shopper in her local Co-op Food store in Kelsall, agrees: “This was the first Co-op event I had joined (I’ve since participated in another) and I’m on the lookout for more. Anything that’s different is good by me.” 

If you missed the online Rioja wine event, you can watch it here

There are always ways for you to get involved with your Co-op. Head to your member account to see what opportunities are currently available

Terry McLeod 
Member Participation and Engagement 

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