I DRINK ON THE JOB - THE BLOG
January 20th, 2009 • No Comments
OK, OK, this photo has nothing to do with the topic – but a Belly Dancer performed at a TasteDC Introduction to Moroccan Cooking Class yesterday and well, we were drinking Moroccan wine, so it’s kind of related – no?
Since I started TasteDC (http://www.tastedc.com) almost 12 years ago, I’ve probably received over 500 requests for private wine tastings. I’ve gotten requests to do private wine tastings for wedding showers, birthday celebrations, corporate events, you name it, every event organizer at some point has considered a wine tasting as a great form of entertainment for a group – and it is! Of course, I have to charge for my services (or I can’t “drink on the the job”!) and this is one of the dilemmas: can a small group of say 15 or less people afford the services of a wine Professional? Second question, do you really need a wine professional for a private wine tasting? Geeze, looks like I just put myself out of a job – or have I? Let’s look a bit more at why someone organizes a wine tasting event.
Most people planning an event like a wine tasting are really thinking of a way to both draw alot of people and entertain them at an event. Although many people drink wine in the U.S., they don’t much about it, but most wine drinkers are very curious about learning more. Most event organizers are looking for a bit of education on wine, but more an opportunity for friends, fellow business workers or clients to mingle and frankly have a good time socializing. I always ask a few questions when people first contact me:
-Do you have a location and date in mind?
-Do you have an estimated head count?
-What is your budget – this is usually about the third question in because I like to check to see how serious the event organizer is – or if they’re just “shopping”, which is very acceptable, but actually a bit tricky to do when you hire a wine Professional – not one size fits all, we are all very different and have different specialties
Once I get an idea of the event planners interest, then I usually throw one or two ideas out at them: would they prefer a seated tasting with me as a speaker, or do they want something more casual where I speak for maybe 10 minutes about the basics of wine, and then their attendees can learn about the wine both from me mingling and from the wine tables set up, usually with food morsels nearby? Often, I do something very unexpected–I tell them that it makes no sense to hire me or a wine professional at their event, that frankly, they’d be much better off just purchasing some wine and doing the event themselves. I’m very passionate about setting up wine classes and I really enjoy getting in front of a group and talking about wine (I’m a bit of a ham!), but often for small groups they neither can afford me, or really need to use my services. I often tell them to contact a local retailer, get some information on the wines from the internet, and pour away at their event.
So when should a wine tasting for a group have a wine Professional? The answer is when they really want to create a positive impression for their group or organization. Not only do I assist the planner with the venue, the food, the wine and the layout of the event, but I also have a very special connection with new wine drinkers. I’ve been attending and teaching TasteDC’s Wine Basics 101 class since the very beginning of my affiliation and approximatley 16,000 people have attended this class. My knowledge base comes from teaching first-time Newbie wine drinkers the basics of wine – it’s actually quite tricky, because I have to speak the new wine consumer’s language. I’ve found the secret to communicating to Newbie wine consumers is to speak in plain English and talk about things they already understand–not everyone knows what a Sauvignon Blanc tastes like, but almost everyone has had grapefruit juice and had a dish with chives or thyme in it, and often these can be detected in the wine. Not everyone knows how to pair wine and food, but getting them to understand that Italian wine often goes with Italian food, and light dishes with a crisp wine make alot of sense, these are things they can readily understand and identify. As they say, you have to speak the person’s language and since wine language is hard to get at first, I use words in everyday usage. Sure, I occasionally throw out words like retronasal cavity or cat pee (yes, and actual aroma that wine professionals express when they taste Sauvignon Blancs!) but mostly I talk about how wine is made, how to taste it, and some simple quick ways to catch on quickly.
Yes, you could organize your private wine tasting without a wine Professional like me, but we add alot of value to an event, and if you’re trying to entertain or create an impression, then I believe it’s a necessity. Many of my private wine classes are for law firms and consulting firms where there are alot of “A” types, so I actually create a team building blind wine tasting for the second half of the event that is sort of like a game show – so they get to drink, learn and compete all at the same time, very popular with some groups! My fee for speaking at events ranges on the size of the group and the day of the week, but it usually ranges from $25 to $50 per person, depending on the amount of time and organization involved.
I’ll post another article on how to choose a wine professional for your event – the questions you may want to ask about them.
Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler