How to Choose Wine at a Business Event

We were running a wine-tasting dinner for our business last month with some fairly high-level executives from a wide spectrum of industries. What they all had in common was this question, ‘when I am in a company dinner and they hand me the wine list (either because they believe I know something about wine or due to my place), what the hell am I supposed to do?’

Ordering wine at a business function is important. Business individuals are judged by just about what they do, and an ability to purchase wine, taking on far more importance than it should. Nowadays, the bottom line when it comes to wine is in fact the most important thing, successful business people should have the ability to detect worth, and the wine list is no exception; this is where the word “cheap” comes in.

And here is where “cheat” comes in. More and more restaurants have their wine lists online; find it and examine it until you are good to go. See what fits into your budget and look up the wines online. By the time you’re handed the list, you will have the ability to generate a snap decision that will make it seem you know what you are doing and are a fast decision-maker to boot. If the wine list isn’t online, drop by the restaurant beforehand, look on the list and talk to some wine experts. For example stop by a vineyard in the yarra valley for some tips prior to your event. It is a small investment in time that will pay massive dividends.

Even if this is not possible, at least spend a few minutes doing some internet browsing on the kind of wine inclined to be listed. If this simply is not possible, here are some tips:

1) Move quickly
The longer you stare at the list, the more your partners will assume either that you know nothing about wine and you are missing or that you know a great deal about wine and that the wine you purchase will be the best experience of their lives.

2) Skip anything that is familiar
No one is going to be impressed if you purchase Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay or Yellow Tail Shiraz and, in actuality, they will be outraged in the restaurant’s cost. You will be punished for staying in your comfort zone. More broadly, for value, avoid the entire long lists of the most-familiar wines: American Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or perhaps some local yarra valley wine. A wine that is unfamiliar is more likely to impress your associates.

3) When the list is geographically wide, it is going to be tough to go wrong, for a snowy, with Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and, to get a reddish, with Malbec from Argentina.

4) If there’s a sommelier, do not be shy about using their help. Superior business people understand how to delegate, after all, and you are merely showing that skill. But here is the key if you are really stuck: After you determine how much you wish to spend, pick an intriguing, unusual wine about that price and then telephone over the sommelier and say, ‘This looks interesting to me. Do you believe this is a great idea or is there something else you would suggest?’ — but the entire time you’re doing so, be pointing in the purchase price, not the wine.

On the other hand, perhaps it is all easier than that. The worst thing you can do is attempt to pretend you know a lot about the different wines on the list. There is no shame in acknowledging to the table and saying, ‘You know what? I enjoy wine, but I wouldn’t start to describe myself as a professional. So I would like to flip this over to one of you that actually knows what they are talking about.’ Believe me, you can bet their will always be at least one individual who cannot wait to catch the wine list and flaunt. Let them do the honors, and you get easy points for that.