Winning with wine at business lunches

Business lunch. A once great institution of pre GFC marketing and client account management. But these days business lunches are quicker, cheaper and fewer-and-far between.  So apart from knowing the difference between chicken and beef, what other special qualities do you need to take to the table if you’re off to a business lunch anytime soon?

Well, knowing a little about wine helps. And knowing that yes, you’ll probably have to pay fringe benefits tax on this lunch perk.

Now, for the record, this blog post doesn’t advocate drinking lots of booze with clients. Or binge drinking, nor playing beer pong to win more business.

The key message below is all about moderation and knowing what wines to pick at your next business lunch and this can make all the difference when you’re entertaining important clients.

When I was around 18 years old, I used to think wine was for old people and Crown Lager was a boutique beer. Then someone told me it was Fosters in a posh brown bottle.

So I decided to see what all the fuss was about with the red, pink, bubbly and white stuff.

I started with some basic research in the red aisle of the local Liquorland and quickly saw that it’s all about regions and varieties of grapes. By the way, anything in the aisle is usually too hot, too humid and too bright under all those lights. Buy from a nice, cool, dark warehouse.

Regional tips

Australia is sensational wine country with vast regions of great wines, so start here and then move onto NZ, France, Italy and Chile/California.

Generally I mix it up and get reds and whites from all the regions I like. But the rule of thumb is to know one or two well priced, great drinking and reliable wines from a few regions.

For example, Aussie bubbles from Tasmania (Jansz) or the Yarra Valley (Chandon) are both great drinking. And for about $35 a bottle, well priced to open a business lunch.

For the chardy which is making a return to the table, go for a Yarra Valley again (Coldstream Hills or Yering Station) and also look at anything from the Margaret River like the well priced Vasse Felix. The Hunter Valley also has some nice ones too.

For Sav Blanc, you cannot go past either Marlborough, Hawkes Bay or Otago  – all in NZ. The Adelaide Hills though has some nice drops too and usually cellars like Shaw+Smith or Petaluma are good picks.

On the red side, Pinot is great to open a lunch, before you get to the steaks and Shiraz. Pinots I like seem to come from Tasmania, Morington Peninsula or the Yarra Valley.

My main players

Then there are the Shiraz and Cabernets and their blended friends.

Generally for a business lunch you cannot go wrong with a good Shiraz or Cabernet Merlot as they generally aren’t as full on as a straight cabernet. Here is a list of the wines recently consumed with clients, partners and work colleagues at various (post GFC) business lunches.

1. Kay Bothers – The Block 6 Shiraz was awesome at a recent lunch. And all the tables around us ended up buying it too. Win.

2. Clonakilla – Shiraz Voignier. Try the 2012, it’s a belter. And clients will say something like “Canberra makes wine?”. Then after tasting it, they’ll say “Where do I buy it?”.

3. Heathcote Estate  – the Shiraz is great and partner Yabby Lake also do some nice Shiraz, Chardys and Rosé.

4. Craggy Range – try the Gimblett Syrah (Shiraz). A great, smooth and awesome drop for any steak at your favourite joint.

5. Laurance – The 2010 Icon Cab Sav is special. Amazing bottle too that’ll impress the clients.

6. Penfolds Grange – Yes, you’ll only get a sip but it’s well worth it. For a write up on tasting Grange and putting it up against home made wine, check out Matt Granfield’s blog Indie Wine Guide.

Business wine tip – My favourite and main Australian regions for reliable great drinking plonk in red or white are: Margaret River, WA; Barossa Valley, SA; Clare Valley, SA, Yarra Valley VIC, Heathcote, VIC and anywhere in TAS. And for NZ, I like Hawkes Bay, Martinborough and Otago. 

Finally, don’t try too hard knowing everything about wine or what time the grapes were picked, as no one likes a wine snob. And make sure your HR Consultant isn’t kept busy by too much of the good stuff!