No Sour Grapes

The latest trend is hobnobbing with clients at wine-tasting establishments like wineries and wine bars.

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"A lot more companies are finding value in learning more about wine," says Don Sritong, corporate sommelier and managing partner of Just Grapes, a Chicago wine shop specializing in corporate education and events. Even ordering a great bottle at a business dinner, he says, "is a function of everyday business. A lot of deals are done at the dinner table now, and [people] need to be as confident with the components of a dinner—one being the wine list—as they are in the boardroom."

Bonding with clients over a great wine is all in a day's work for Christine Deussen, founder of Deussen Global Communications Inc., a New York City PR firm with annual sales of about $1.7 million. Founded in 2002, the company represents many wineries—and Deussen, 39, has found that mingling with members of the news media, for example, can be a lot of fun at a winery.

Being confident about wine is key. Sritong suggests taking a class on how to navigate a wine list before you try to impress clients simply by ordering the most expensive bottle. You can even have a wine expert come to you for a wine class with your customers.

Wine events can vary from a short tasting at a wine store or winery to a full-blown winery trip. Deussen says that a quick wine tasting might be appropriate for breaking the ice with a new client, while a wine and four-course dinner might be more suited for building on an established relationship. Bonding over wine can be a satisfying business-building tactic. Says Deussen, "It's something you enjoy together."

—By Nichole L. Torres

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