Corporate wine tastings
Making wine the perfect catalyst for a memorable get together.
Group wine tastings hit a chord with many people, and corporate events are back on the map again (in the UK at least) because Covid denied people the fun of interacting and there is undoubtedly a pent-up thirst needing to be addressed.
The best bit about wine tastings is that the menu is incredibly diverse in terms of themes, styles of event and budgets. You really can’t go wrong if the menu stays clear of wine snobbery if you ask me.
What makes a wine tasting event successful?
In my 30 plus years’ experience in bringing people and fine wine together at cooperate and bespoke events, I have followed a more down to earth approach aiming at making all guests feel welcome and empowered to trust their own judgements. A balancing act of ensuring that expert and amateur guests head home with a similarly warm and positive feeling about the occasion.
Wine represents different things to different people. Obviously, it can be a seemingly lifesaving thirst quencher and it can also be an unforgettable experience both positive ‘wow’ and negative, ‘Remind me not to buy this battery acid again’ sort of thing. But at all ends of the quality spectrum wine experiences are something that people like to share.
‘Have you tried this wine from ….?’ People frequently want to show off their discoveries based on price, quality and on what may be perceived to be the insider knowledge passed from one to another with the advice ‘don’t tell everyone but you really should taste this gem I came across’.
The common message is that people really enjoy shared experiences and wine is a classic example of just that.
A group wine tasting offers a divine trinity of the pleasure of the company and of the wine, as well as the prospect of some degree of anonymity, being hidden in the herd, so that it is easy to evade any scrutiny of your individual wine knowledge. Anyone who studies wine knows how broad the subject is and therefore there should never be any form of shame if there are gaps in that knowledge. We all have them.
How to taste and drink wine?
Do we really need to 'learn to taste'? We all have our very own personal preferences. Sticking to those preferences is the best advice but not everyone knows how to seek out the styles they love.
What matters most in wine tasting is that there are some pretty snooty approaches which are probably not conducive to a happy experience for all participants. Wines should only be introduced on the basis of letting them perform or not, subject to the participants’ own likes and dislikes. For that reason, there is nothing better than allowing people to taste two wines at a time so that they, and only they, can decide which they prefer.
At a prestigious event which I hosted in Shanghai, I asked the question as to which of two glasses the diners preferred. A simple enough question with a hand raised to signify the left hand glass. Nobody raised a hand. It transpires that fear of losing face by getting it ‘wrong’ was the problem, while I was attempting to prove that there was no correct answer, other than their own opinion.
In most other countries people are more open and willing to share their thoughts which becomes a perfect illustration if half the room prefer left and the other half right.
Wine should never be just about good or bad (emperor’s new clothes if you don’t get it). For that reason, the balancing act of ensuring that expert and amateur guests head home with a similarly warm and positive feeling about the occasion, must be the sole aim of the presenter.
At one event for a law firm in London the group of 40 were split into 8 groups of 5 people - there was a mini competition to identify the four wines in front of each person using multiple clues delivered by me and then a team answer page would be submitted. One table of 5 seemed to have arrived straight from a very long lunch. They took me at my word when I suggested that the first impression of each wine was likely to be the best way to find the clues and with 4 glasses in turn, they picked them up and downed the contents in one. A few tables were a bit sniffy about this raucous approach to a serious subject, but that table did win the competition outright.
I have countless stories like this. They all have one thing in common. Fine wine presented and served with background, facts and anecdotes bring people together.
It does not take much imagination to realise that if shared experiences using wine are so popular then why not use the concept to attract clients, prospects, and colleagues to the same place (in-person or online) to have some fun.
Tips to take away
Lunzer Guide to Wine tasting events
The sensory examination of wine has since become increasingly sophisticated to the point that the taste descriptions become ridiculous, contradicting, and confusing for the consumer. “Toasted bracken – really? Do you know anyone who has toasted bracken and then tasted it.” I could fill barrels with these examples and many critics compete with outlandish taste comparisons and analogies, perhaps to ensure that they are published. But let’s move on…
How to taste
Serve 2 wines at the same time encouraging guests to trust their own judgements.
Choosing the format
To dine or not to dine. There should always be food served when wines are being tried and I always opt for bespoke solutions where the clients and guest can lean back, trust that I have it covered. My role is to help find the venue, the wine and food served to suit the hosts preferences.
Hosting events at gorgeous venues in London and worldwide will add a certain joie de vie which was sorely missed during lockdowns. However, sometimes joining a virtual event from the comfort of home and hearing the stories of wines creates another form of shared experience with other guests. As long as you always make people feel welcome, the fun and pleasures of wine will always be a joy to behold.