Wine is a drink rightly associated with sophistication. Good wine requires a sophisticated production process often starting with climate and soil and goes on all the way towards a delicate aging & storage processes. The result is that this fabulous drink may open the doors to a culinary and olfactory heaven with its unique smells and tastes.
If your career will include any executive position then you could benefit from getting to know wine or better get acquainted with its culture. Executive business meetings may take place within offices but quite often they start and finish at restaurants. Of course many long lasting projects include lunches and dinners as interim events so as long as you will have executive exposure wine will help you. More importantly, you may (and should) be invited for a job interview in the form of a business lunch or a small-group company dinner, an outing with a not-so-important client may be your boss’ way of seeing you in the field as she shall decide whom to promote.
Representational ability may be the sole quality that sets you apart from being a means to being an end. If you have superior professional skills but poor representational and communication skills you may be considered as a valuable “use and discard” tool. When you can score high in people’s realm then you’d be considered as an … influencer. If you disagree, just take your Mac Book Pro and scratch its polished aluminum surface with sandpaper. It still will be the same laptop but will you and others perceive it the same way?
A client of our chemicals business, a Fortune 50 company’s EU headquarters openly wanted to meet with our now retired ex-sales director because he had superior sales skills and a vivacious social personality. He would fly to Europe from Istanbul and take them to dinner. The office talks and tough negotiations were part of the deal but they were the intermediary component. Our director provided the process initiation and conclusion, leaving most of the rest to our sales manager. Process initiation means the other party (client, potential boss, corporate buyer) giving you a subconscious mental rating upon which your “business talks” will be founded.
Representational quality is something you will surely benefit. Of course, you need not follow any specific etiquette and I would advise you not to do something you feel not comfortable doing. The aim is not to force you to associate with an identity you detest but to show that certain social skills make wonders and wine can be an integral component.
Let’s now briefly review some ‘wine in restaurant’ basics. This text is not Wine 101, you can find much better resources so I’ll try to keep it brief.
1. Learn the basics of wine. Do some reading and then shopping. Wine stores will be more helpful than markets as you can talk to someone to help you. My suggestion would be to try Chardonnay (white), Cabarnet Sauvignon (red), sparkling wine (called champagne if from that region in France) and then rose wine. The more you taste and match it with food, the better for you.
2. If the restaurant has an online menu & wine list you can go through them in advance. If it looks too long & complex then choose the country and region with the largest offerings and focus there.
3. If asked to choose wine and you are not comfortable doing so then don’t. You can ask for the waiter’s suggestion or you can ask for the sommelier (wine specialist) if there is one.
4. Opening a bottle but especially a premium wine (would also accompany premium food) is a mini ritual. Your waiter should uncork the bottle easily and elegantly without touching the table. If given the cork, consider it as an extension of this ritual. You need not do anything with the cork. Just leave it on the table or smell briefly for foul smell.
5. The ritual should continue when you are given wine to taste. Briefly smell and taste your wine. Check for foul smells in red wine and incorrect temperature (usually should be slightly warmer than fridge temp) in white. Red wine will produce its aromas when swirled but you need not try this unless you are comfortable. If you can swirl, definitely do this. It is safer on the table to make that round movement but if you can and want to leave a good impression do so in the air.
6. The steps of optionally smelling the cork and (not optional) tasting the wine are to eliminate foul wine. Aged wine can rarely go foul. If this happens your waiter will bring another glass for himself/sommelier to taste and then replace it for free.
7. Aeration is good for wine, especially red, whether in the bottle or in the carafe/decanter.
What Not To Do
Number one suggestion is to control yourself. Do not start gulping down wine especially if you are not the senior person. Other than that be genuine. Avoid praising or criticising wine or wine drinkers solely to impress others.
If your boss delegates you with making the reservation then you may be asked to choose a wine. Ask your boss or his/her secretary about selection and price range. If this were not possible, go for the cheapest wine +20% price range. For more important meetings go 50% or maximum 100% of the cheapest one. An upscale restaurant should have wine in the range of 100 to 5,000 dollars per bottle so be careful!
Closing A Sale
(I am not a salesperson but I often see so many blunders that I’d like to write about it)
Wine can be helpful when the deal is big and sales process is consultative. You may be openly asked by your boss to choose a “top wine” to impress a client so as to close a sale but do not do so! Make sure that you are choosing a good one that matches what you client is going to eat. It may be a better idea for you and your boss to eat similar food. Do not offer to give the wine list to your client. You are supposed to entertain! Go for the cheapest wine plus 75-100% price range, identify a wine from your preferred variety/terroir and hand over the wine list to your boss while stating the wine you chose but not its price. Your boss can glance at the menu and by saying yes or suggesting a different wine can give you a price suggestion.
Port wine (from the Portuguese city of Porto) is strongly recommended after dinners. It is a wonderful sugary one made with a different process and is often in the form of red wine. If you shall close a sale, a port wine (avoid white ports) could help you get a yes or to eliminate a no.
Let’s say your sales meeting has been unfruitful. Clients says he has no interest, and will not purchase. But he is not rushing to leave. My recommendation would be to definitely go for a desert wine after a lunch and a port wine after a dinner. Then you can act as if the official meeting is finished and just have daily talk and build some empathy.
A wine is a killer tool in a job interview. Just after two glasses of white wine, an executive candidate may impress you with his/her elegance topping business skills or alternatively you may witness a rapidly approaching, out-of-control truck carrying dirty laundry.
Every office needs at least a person who can entertain clients. If you believe you can do so talk to your boss and let her know about your talent. You never know, she may ask you to lead a critical dinner if a last minute family emergency takes place and clients are on their way.