HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
A standard 750 milliliter bottle of wine holds just over 25 ounces — enough for five five-ounce glasses, or six four-ounce glasses. If you are having a cocktail reception, figure two glasses per person in the first hour and one glass per person after that. At a typical banquet, allow for one glass for the first course and 1.5 to two glasses for the second, but consider your audience, your history, and your schedule. If your cocktail reception lasts an hour or longer, guests may be happy with a single glass of wine at the table, but if you're planning a brief half-hour reception, expect to pour more with dinner.
ASK FOR HELP
The truth is, selecting wines is not just intimidating — it takes some specialized knowledge. The chef, catering manager, or food-and-beverage director ought to be able to give you suggestions based on your menu and your budget. You can help by explaining the goals for the meeting and the demographics of your group. The age, gender, and socio-economic background of your attendees will affect the wine choices.
PICK LIKE A PRO
If you're picking wine on your own, a vintage chart can help. Several are available online, including The Wine Advocate's Vintage Guide on www.eRobertParker.com. The chart lists 30 wine regions and rates the quality of the wine from each region every year from 2003 to 1970. Who knew that the California North Coast's cabernet sauvignons are rated extraordinary in 2001 but just average in 2000?
TASTE IS EVERYTHING
Schedule a tasting lunch to sample the wines that you have chosen with the meal you will be serving. Invite the meeting's key stakeholders, if possible, and decide for yourselves if the wine and food are a good match.
POP THE CORKAGE
While wine prices at hotels and resorts can be steep, bringing your own won't necessarily save the budget. Corkage fees can easily exceed $10 per bottle. They might be negotiable, but don't count on getting rid of them.
NONDRINKERS ARE PEOPLE, TOO
Be sensitive to attendees who don't drink. Start by asking on your registration form if attendees would like nonalcoholic wines served to them during dinner. If you offer a wine tasting, make sure that the leader points out how much can be appreciated by sniffing. Nondrinkers will also appreciate nonalcoholic options at receptions and dinners. Many nonalcoholic wines are too sweet, but those made from de-alcoholized cabernet or chardonnay taste pretty good.
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