Wine and Dine Your Way to Meeting Success

People love wine … and they’ll love attending a meeting that revolves around it

Name something people love more than wine.  

We’ll wait. 

Ice cream? Puppies? Free stuff? Maybe … but wine probably still wins. The global wine market is valued at $302 billion, and by 2023, that number is expected to grow to nearly $424 billion. Capitalize on that popularity with a wine-focused event that’s sure to keep people talking long after the last cork is popped. 

Here’s how. 

Consider Your Purpose

Wine can work for a variety of occasions. It’s a natural fit for Celebrate events, whether you’re toasting landing a big client or work anniversaries. It’s also a reliable staple for Network meetings because—let’s face it—alcohol helps people socialize with strangers. Finally, consider wine for an Ideate meeting where you need creative brainstorming and for everyone to loosen up just a bit. 

Plan Wines with a Theme

Think about your group and see whether a wine theme emerges naturally. For example, if you’re planning an alumni event, select wine made in the same state as the guests’ alma mater. For a gathering where a corporate expansion to South Africa is being announced, serve wines from that nation to celebrate. 

No obvious theme? Choose your own. It can be “reds from the Pacific Northwest United States” or “white wines of Australia.” Take weather into account; warm weather lends itself to rosé, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Cold winter temperatures pair best with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel and oaked chardonnay. 

Don’t be afraid to ask an expert when selecting wines or figuring out how much to buy. Purchase the wine from a local shop and ask the staff for help. 

Don’t Forget the Food

Unless you want a bunch of tipsy people on your hands, you’ll want to make sure the food at your event is substantial and appealing—flimsy canapés need not apply. Passed hors d’oeuvres or food stations are a good way to get people moving and talking. Try stuffed mushrooms with pinot noir, meatballs with cabernet sauvignon and mini grilled cheese sandwiches with dry rosé. Match the texture of the food to the wine—rich wines should be paired with rich dishes. Of course, don’t forget bunches of both white and red grapes for a sweet snack.

If you’ve landed on a theme for the wine, extend it to the food as well. That South African expansion can be celebrated with curry dip and viskoekie fish cakes.

And don’t stress too much about the perfect pairing. If a particular food and wine sound like a tasty match to you, they probably are. 

Decorate the Winery Way

In an ideal world, you’d be able to nab a space that already looks like it belongs in a vineyard, with stone walls and rustic wood beams. If you can’t swing that, bring in distressed wood tables and make your own tasting room. 

At a traditional wine tasting, the tablecloths are white so not to distract from the color of the wine, and flowers and other fragrant items are banished to keep the palate focused. So keep color limited and don’t worry about a flower budget. Swap cocktail tables for oak barrels and use wine bottles as centerpieces. If you’re going to let guests open the wine themselves, scatter fun corkscrews around the space. Keep the lights lower than normal, and even dim them if appropriate—this is not the time for florescent bulbs. Illuminate an evening event with scentless votive candles. 

Keep Safety and Sensitivity Top of Mind 

Not everyone can drink or chooses to drink, so make sure you have at least a couple of alternative beverages on hand. Nondrinkers can get in on the fun if they have the option of trying high-quality nonalcoholic wine or sparkling wine

And don’t forget to set up one or more water stations. After all, everyone needs to hydrate. Present the water in an appealing way, with graceful glass jugs and glasses, and offer fruit garnishes. Nobody wants to pour themselves a glass of sad lukewarm water from a plastic pitcher. 

Perhaps the most important advice? Don’t overthink it. When the star of the show is wine, you’re bound to get rave reviews.