It is common knowledge and indeed, common practice to close business deals over a meal. But a dinner can be double-edged sword in the worst sort of ways, if you miscalculate certain critical components. One of those often-miscalculated components is wine.

For every single scenario in business dealings, there is an effective choice of wine and many disastrous options lurking to catch you when you are not thinking. This article gives a few no-nonsense guidelines to help both sides come to terms with what should be an inevitable deal on the table.

Scenario 1: details of the deal have already been ironed out and all that stands in the way of the finish line is a handshake.

This is certainly the time for good vintage Champagne. The entire meal can be one bottle of Champagne after another, varying the style each time a new bottle is popped. You start off with a simple Non-Vintage (NV) Champagne, like a Paul Bara Grand Cru (P2000). If this clinches the deal, well, keep the change. Comes the soup course, pop a Brut vintage champagne, like a Nicolas Feuilette 1992 (P3900). If the second assault fails but the tide is battle is clearly shifting to your favor, finish the job with the ultimate, a Dom Perignon 1990 (P8900), currently the best of the young vintages for this luxury Champagne. This is certainly a grand-slam homerun if there is going to be one in tonight’s ballgame.

The low (12%) alcohol level holds up the celebratory spirit without ruining the situation with intoxication. Champagne’s extremely high level of acidity that is elegantly hidden behind the mousse keeps the senses active and prevents drowsiness. Falling asleep is not a part of a good closing act for a power dinner.

 

Scenario 2: both sides like the deal but there is a potential showstopper. An honorable retreat for both sides would shrink the issue enough for us skip over it and continue our journey to the Promised Land.

The wine solution to this business problem will do a bit of damage but other options can hurt much more. The prescription is a big name wine, a chateau Margaux or a Le Montrachet white Burgundy for example. It eradicates any confrontational fallout carried over from the meeting room. The conversation takes on the congenial spirit of admiring rather than that of fault finding.

In all likelihood, you and your guest will both admire it. You want the wine to conjure up some congeniality and lead both parties to the same side of the fence.

In business, it makes no sense to spend more than necessary to achieve a goal. Big-name wines including a Chateau Margaux don’t always have to lead to financial amputation if you select one from a vintage (year) that spared from hype. A 1970 Chateau Margaux would easily set you back an arm and a leg (P90000 - yes it’s not a typo, there are 4 zeroes there) but the same wine from a 1974 vintage will go for a friendlier P15000.

 

 

Scenario 3: the deal is fraught with speed bumps and potholes and talks in the office smacked of a ride on EDSA in an old vehicle with faulty suspension.

Obviously talks are not going anywhere and if allowed to proceed in the same (South) direction, the deal will be hitting icebergs before the evening is over. This calls for a remind and DVD change. Without the assurance of a deal, there is no reason to throw money around.

This certainly calls for the old classic – PORT. At a hedonistic alcohol level of 20% with the sweetness of a Thai princess, no human amount of willpower will focus the discussion back on a bumpy track. The business community is very familiar with red and white wines. Introducing a fine vintage port like a Ferreira 1987 (P5800) will certainly catch their attention and introduce a harmless topic into the dinner conversation.

Unlike with dry wine, which comes at 12-14% alcohol, these sweet things are fortified with Brandy and pack quite a punch. One bottle for 4 persons is generous enough. But port requires much longer ageing so don’t embarrass the table by opening anything young. But even for a venerable 1985 Feist (P8000) divided into 4 (persons), it is remarkably affordable for its stature among the great stars in wine.

 

 

Scenario 4: although it is still exploratory, the sex appeal is overwhelming in the concept of the deal and serious progress can be made given a positive frame of mind that focuses the intelligence not on the pessimistic fine points but rather, the heroic bold prints.

What kind of wine will get us into a frame of mind that will direct our senses to focus on the bigger picture? Well, this is a tough one. We want a wine that will remind us of times of splendor and optimism, in other words, the roaring decades.

The vintage is more important than the wine. You certainly don’t need a reminder of the crash of 1997. If you were in China, would you like to remind everyone of 1989 (Tianman Square)? In general, vintages in the 60’s and 70’s are politically safe.

If you know that your guest made history in a certain year – good research by your executive assistant perhaps – then the choice for a vintage is a no-brainer. But remember one thing – call ahead to tell your dining establishment to get that vintage out of the cellar. Some restaurants are notoriously poor in stock of older vintages even though the stock of matured wines is what separates them from a wine store.

Scenario 5: this is sticky because you need to crawl out of a black hole, created by a good-for-nothing lawyer of the other side threw a monkey wrench into the otherwise smooth grinding motion of a well-greased gear system. The other side gave you a hint of “reaching out” by not inviting the good-for-nothing to attend dinner, so it is up to you to meet them half way with a good effort over dinner.

You want a good wine but nothing over the top to suggest that you are trying too hard. A half way effort means a proportional response. This requires a bit of panache in wine selection. Big names are out of the questions just as anything ordinary is too. Extravagance and cheap go out the door together, leaving just one narrow guideline to follow – value for money.

Quantity of wine should be slightly more than usual to avoid any residual feeling of inadequacy. Hosts have to be slightly over-the-top to show respect for their guests. Confine the prices to 4-figures and you can’t go wrong but the wine has to be interesting, not common stuff you can pick up from a friendly neighborhood retails store. Here are a few examples: Ch. Clos Rene 1975 (P6000) from Pomerol, Margaux’s Ch. D’Issan 1960 (P7000), 1997 Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons of Duplesis (P3900) and 1987 Rioja Reserva Campillo (P2900).

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If you are plagued by perennial under performance in closing deals, your Chinese instincts might tell you to call a fung shui master. The calculating business mind will look for a more tangible solution – wine. When in doubt, write in to ask. Knowing how critical wine can be in a business formula, we will not sleep on our job in answering your questions. Please email them to service@yats-international.com after you have exhausted assistance readily available from the www.YatsRestaurant.com web site.

 
 

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