From food trucks to Food Network, phrases like “liquid nitrogen” and “farm to fork” are becoming part of regular conversation and sought after by more than just foodies. Our food interests are not only piqued, but our tastes diversifying. Craft beer is a ‘thing’ (whoop!), Mixology an art form (finally!), and creative ideas for mixing up the party the norm.

Have The Guts to Pour Outside the Lines
Have The Guts to Pour Outside the Lines

A-typical is the new typical. And it’s awesome.

But there is always an exception to the rule. There is one thing you can pretty much count on when it comes to conferences and receptions: the same-old-same wine “selection”.

Even with testaments like demand for Pour Favor's services and the least expected folks mixing it up to tap this growing, wine-curious market, networking events and conferences we attend are like megaphones for the status quo. The tension between innovation and typicity is palpable!

Why don't more of these events push the wine envelope? Here's our educated guess:

  1. Something has to be “safe”. Going with generic, dime a dozen offerings takes the ‘white gloves’ off of a category that historically is perceived as unapproachable –at least what’s on the bar is familiar and has the social stamp of approval, right?
     
  2. When it comes to planning big events at hotels and conference centers in particular, you have to fight to work with any wines NOT on the venue’s official wine list. This is a big deal, a giant practical reality for us planners. Event planning is hard enough!

Safe + Easy = Status Quo

Offering fresh ideas and working them to fruition always takes more effort. You know that. You also know the reward is so worth it. Creativity and the element of surprise is key to staying relevant, drawing a crowd and… trending! It’s time to push back on what is offered and let interest and enthusiasm for Imagination infiltrate this aspect as well.

Here’s how:

  • Research.   Even if (or, perhaps especially if) you are into wine, solicit the help of pros. Your palate and preferences are still your own, and you’re still catering to a crowd. Wine Buyers can help you identify non-commercial wines that are: a. Crowd-pleasing by nature; b. Budget-friendly (whatever budget you are working with – a wine’s price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality!); and, if you aren’t hosting at your office, c. Easily available to restaurants and venues alike. Choose a fine wine shop (or two) with a reputation for being approachable. Let them know you want to mix things up at your next event and the criteria (above) that you have. Talk with them about the wines they then recommend – bring them home to taste them (ideally opening/tasting the wines with them also, if they allow it). Be sure to ask what about a given wine makes it party-friendly, why their customers get excited and keep coming back for more.
  • Explore.  Don’t be afraid of wines/grapes you’ve never heard of. This is often where the fun really begins; offering guests wines they are (also) unfamiliar with means they have no preconceived notions, and can just enjoy the experience. This is what makes your research so valuable, and gives you bonus Creativity Points!
  • Apply your findings.  If you aren’t hosting at your office and can’t just have your new favorite wine shop deliver the wines you need, push back with the Hotel/Conference Center Sales Manager you are working with. S/He will be your best advocate to ensure the Food & Beverage team secure the wines you want for your affair. If the wines are available in your market (as your research should have confirmed!), they should be able to bring them in for your event. Push them to do so – the customer is always right, right?

Like any event you’ve planned, doing the legwork up front and finding partners you can trust – from the wine shop who knows their stuff, to the venue(s) that will support your creative approach – will make for even easier planning down the line.

To be any kind of trailblazer, it only takes one thing: Guts! Seek out unconventional, approachable wines. Your guests will thank you. #trending