How To Order Wine Without Making A Fool Of Yourself

Posted: May 20, 2017

Americans drink more wine than people of any other nationality--we chugged 913 million gallons of the nectar of the gods in 2015.

Yet, sit most of us down at a fancy restaurant with a multipage wine list and a sommelier breathing down our necks, and we start to think a beer sounds really good. Make it an important business dinner with a prospective employer or a big customer and a shot of bourbon with that beer sounds even better.

It doesn't have to be this stressful. In fact, wine can help you seal the deal, according to Bianca Bosker, author of Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste (Penguin, March 2017).

Bosker is a journalist by training who "generally preferred wines from a bottle, but certainly wouldn't have turned up [her] nose at something boxed" before she became fascinated by the highly competitive, sensory world of sommeliers. She dove into that world for a year and emerged as a Court of Master Sommeliers' Certified Sommelier (she's one of the mere five percent of applicants who passed that exam on their first attempt).

In the following interview, Bosker offers us some savvy advice on how to order wine in a business setting:

Kinni: Why do so many smart, competent businesspeople feel like they've been put on the spot when they get handed a wine list?

Bosker: It can be stressful to have to order a not-inexpensive drink for a table of people who you need to impress. If you're hosting a business dinner, you're probably working with a finite budget and you're in a situation with much higher stakes than a casual dinner with friends.

How can those of us who don't know fine burgundy from wine in a box transform that stress into success?

Reframe the experience. When you do wine right, you can elevate the meal from just stuffing your face and going through the usual corporate niceties into a bonding experience.

One of my favorite things about a bottle of wine is its capacity to bring people together. I think if you try a wine that is a bit unusual, a bottle with a story, all of a sudden you've created a shared experience with other people at the table.

How can a business host ensure the sommelier will guide the table to a great adventure in taste?

You only need to give your somm--or your server--two pieces of information to get to a great bottle of wine.

One is what you want to spend. Don't be bashful about this--we all have a budget. If you point to a wine that is $60 or $80, they aren't going to steer you to something that is $180 or $200.

The second piece of information is what flavors you want to taste. That could be as specific as "I had a great Chasselas from Switzerland the other night" or as general as "I usually like wines that smell like grass." Any good sommelier or well-trained server is going to be able to use either piece of information to guide you toward a bottle.

How do you figure out what kinds of wine you like?

That's prep work and it's a lot of fun. If you don't know a lot about wines, there are two very basic steps that can set you on the path to being a terrific taster.

The first is to build your sense memory--a library of smells that you know and can, in turn, recognize in a glass of wine. Humans can identify about five different tastes, but we can identify a trillion different odors. So, in large part, the complexity of a glass of wine comes from its aromas.

To develop your sense memory, start taking an extra moment to sniff the things you encounter in day-to-day life and then, just say the word in your head. For example, when you are cooking, smell the parsley before you put it into the pot and say "parsley" to yourself. It sounds so simple, but most of us never listen to our noses.

The second step is complete the feedback loop. Whenever you drink a glass of wine, take a moment to associate the flavor with your library of smells and then, be sure you know the grape used to make the wine and where in the world the wine comes from.

What's one thing Inc. readers should do when they order wine?

Keep an open mind. Don't be so cautious about straying outside of your comfort zone. Let the wine stewards do their work--they know their wine lists better than you ever could. And one of the things they like best about their jobs is guiding people to better and unexpected taste experiences through a bottle of wine.

When I bring my customers wines with surprising flavors from places they'd never thought of before, they remember that experience. Your customers will, too.

By Theodore Kinni May 2017 Source: Business Insider

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