A quick meeting over drinks, dinner and cocktails, a working lunch with colleagues and customers, does this sound familiar? It should because this is how business gets done today. As our work and social lives blur and business and leisure time merges, social norms and work styles need to adapt. And that means the savvy Executive needs to know how to pick the right restaurant and how to order to order a good bottle of wine. They should teach this in business school.
“More deals are done over a glass wine these days then around the boardroom table”, says Chris Jespers a Silicon Valley-based Headhunter. “Not all meetings in a restaurant or bar require a massive expense account, but you should know a little bit about food and wine to be a good host. Image matters, especially in Asia.” And since many in the Going Global community travel for business we’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know about ordering wine.
The First Rule of Wine is There Are No Rules
Sommeliers around the world may take offense but the fact remains, wine is a personal choice and you should drink what you like. Bruce Cakebread the man behind Napa’s iconic Cakebread Cellars says he makes wine that, “Pairs with anything. If it works with Mac ‘n Cheese on a Tuesday night and keeps everyone at the table talking a little longer then it is a good bottle of wine.” This laid back approach is typical amongst the most renowned wine lovers. Everyone has a different palette and everyone has different tastes, so just because a celebrated wine reviewer likes a bottle doesn’t mean you will. Our advice is to follow a few critics and try their recommendations. When you find a reviewer whose tastes match yours, follow their lead. Otherwise, just keep experimenting, that’s the fun part about wine.
Price Doesn’t Matter
OK this isn’t always true but it often is. The economics of the wine industry means that many factors affect the price of a bottle of wine; the value of the land, labor costs, production volumes, the brand’s image, etc. So a $100 bottle of wine isn’t necessarily better than a $10 bottle of wine. Susan Lambert a well-traveled Foodie & Lawyer says, “I always aim to order a bottle of wine that’s in the middle of a restaurant’s price list. My feeling is that it should be nice, my hosts will see that I care about value and the Sommelier can feel good that someone is paying attention to how he structures his wine inventory.” If you’re ordering both a bottle of red and white for a table then it is totally acceptable to pick from the cheaper side of the list.
Pairing is Easy
Yes there are old adages like pick whites for fish and poultry and reds for meats and heavy pastas, but this is less of a rule and more of a guideline. Hong Kong’s famed Sommelier Nelson Chan says, “These guidelines are in place for a reason because they work but they are flexible.” In an age of fusion cuisine, hard and fast rules seem outdated. Yes certain wines complement certain foods and other wines may overpower dishes, but it really comes back to what you like. Nelson’s suggestion is to, “Simply ask the Sommelier or Waiter what they recommend. “ The service staff will know their list and the menu and should be able to help you make a good selection. That’s their job.
Conversation vs Food Wines
These days many wine lovers like to classify varietals as conversation or food wines. The theory is a lighter drinking wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps a Beaujolais Nouveau goes nicely over a chat, whereas move heavy bodied wines like a Zinfandel or a Cabernet Sauvignon are best paired with food. This makes sense but again it comes down to personal taste. Our recommendation is to try a wine by the glass first to see if you like it or simply ask the bartender for a taste. You should also try exploring new varietals, a Rose on a warm summer’s day is great and an sparkling Italian Prosecco makes a nice change from Champagne.
Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed and so our best recommendation is to experiment and see what you like. The most important rule is to keep trying and not become intimidated. We promise you it is worth it and the next time you’re entertaining over a few drinks, you’ll be that much more comfortable ordering.