Whether you’re seated at the head of the table or just along for the ride, at some point in your career, you’ll face the dreaded task of ordering wine for a large group of people. If you’re lucky, it will be something you can order prior to being in public with your group. But it’s inevitable that someone will turn to you at some point in your career and say, “What should we order?” And the last thing you want is to A) order a terrible wine or B) suggest something faux pas like white zinfandel.
To get you started on your professional wine ordering experience and improve your palette (even if it’s a “fake it till you make it” one), we’ve put together some tips on ordering wine in a business setting:
- The first question – red or white. If you’re working with a large group, you may want to order one of each, but in a smaller group, ask the question of red or white.
- Stick to one wine - if you’re ordering both red and white, one wine in each category.
- Don’t get fancy. If you’re trying to show off by ordering a Carmenere, you might impress some people with your knowledge of South American wines, but mostly you’ll get blank stares. When it comes to business ordering, it’s better to crowd please than show off.
- When it comes to varietals, avoid the most popular varietals in favor of a mid-level people pleaser. Everyone orders Chardonnay. Everyone orders Cabernet. Instead, for reds opt for a Shiraz and for white, perhaps a Pinot Grigio.
- Blends are your friend. If you’re totally inept at wine identification, scan the menu, look for a mid-priced bottle of wine that’s a blend from a specific region and say, “How about we go with the California blend for white and an Oregon blend for red?” You’ll sound knowledgeable, but blends are notorious group pleasers.
- Order enough for everyone. A general rule states there are approximately 4-5 glasses of wine in a bottle. Estimate lower than higher for what you’ll get. If a server at a restaurant is pouring, you might get 5 glasses, but if individuals are pouring, you might get 3.5. Order more than you need.
Don’t sweat it. While you might think of many of your friends and colleagues as wine snobs, the truth is, most of us have a high level of wine love and a low level of wine knowledge. Be simple. Be confident, and you’ll be fine.