I recently had the pleasure of writing an article about how the intricacies of ordering wine at a business dinner offer the wonderful leadership opportunity for anyone bold enough to take that initiative. After 15,000 views, thousands of likes, forwards, and comments, I thought now would be an opportune time to serve up a second round of advice.
Before I jump into this article, I wanted to express my sincere appreciation for all of the reader comments from my first piece that reminded us alcohol and business do not usually mix. To be sure, careers (and lives) have been ruined by alcoholic overindulgence. I am simply stating that, in moderation and in the context that I laid out earlier and in my last piece, there are unexpected, and real, leadership opportunities that when executed properly, should not be missed.
Based on reader response and my own experiences, especially as an executive coach and transition expert, I came up with a handful of additional tidbits that will help you showcase your leadership when it comes to taking command of one of the most stressful parts of a business dinner.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when a bottle of wine has already been opened, left to the elements for too long, recorked, and served to your table. You want to make a good impression and know what you are dealing with immediately after your tasting. Unsure of how to tell? I recommend running this simple experiment at home: during an evening when you are staying in, open a bottle of wine, share it with someone special, and leave a little bit at the bottom of the bottle uncorked overnight. Taste the remainder the next evening and now you know what to look out for.
You have agreed to be the leader and to select the wine(s) for everyone at the table, but you are unsure of what type to order. Although I will not recommend specific brands, generally speaking, chiantis, especially when at an Italian food restaurant, are dependable. So is a Malbec. These are typically middle-of-the-road in terms of style, taste, and cost. If you are looking to make the safe bet, you should consider both of these types of wine.
Share the Glory
Drinking a red wine and a white wine at dinner could present a complication when it comes to tasting for the table. That is because, in my opinion as a level one sommelier, a person’s palate will not be at its best when tasting one type after the other type. This is a great opportunity to show off your delegation and team-building skills by handing off one of the tastings to someone else at the table. Empowering a colleague will go far in building the relationship with that individual as well as show everyone else how leaders comfortably share responsibility and gain trust.
On Top of It
If you are sitting at the table and the server brings a bottle of wine with a screw top, do not worry because that is no longer a bad thing. Really. There are some very good wines today that utilize this kind of closure and as the person in charge of making the determination on the wine, you should not feel embarrassed if a screw top shows up. If you have done your research and you know it is a good wine, you should have confidence in the bottle. Just wait until your colleagues taste it and realize they can trust you because you were right – another leadership success for you.
On the House
Here is an extra piece of advice about alcohol and business dinners in general that I have found to be very useful in my career. If you are like me, you usually show up to events early and that means you wait for your colleagues to arrive while standing at the bar. Since you are early, you will have time on your hands and that one drink can easily lead to one-drink-too-many. Next thing you know, you have had two servings before you even begin to drink wine.
Personally, that is way too much alcohol to consume for me to be comfortable in a professional setting. That is why I recommend either nursing one drink at the bar and bringing it with you to the dinner table when your fellow guests arrive or simply order a softer beverage, such as soda, juice, or water. Remember, you want to be relaxed, confident, and at your best, which includes being sober.