by Mary Watson-DeLauder | August 03, 2017
For planners seeking teambuilding activities with an F&B twist, wine tasting seminars are worth considering. This is a great way to mix fun, education, and competition, and an activity that does not involve the business of the meeting but still involves the attendees as a team. The original idea came from a client that wanted to offer an option to their group who did not want to play golf or tennis. After a long day of meetings, this seemed like an excellent opportunity to kick back and learn about wine and your teammates. I call this wine-fo-tainment, a combination of wine, information, and entertainment.
As Chief Wine Officer of the National Conference Center, in Leesburg, VA, I've developed 10 different wine aroma seminars that can be used as a teaching module, icebreaker, or teambuilding exercise. I've seen firsthand that the success of the seminars depends on the communication between the meeting planner and the property. Knowing what the meeting planner is trying to accomplish by doing a wine seminar (i.e. breaking down the ranks, getting to know each other, developing communication skills, or just having fun) helps me decide how to set up the group, how long the seminar will take, and how detailed and at what level I should discuss the wines.

We offer a variety of individual or team seminars that show the attendees how to smell, taste, and try to identify aromas commonly found in wine. We incorporate a wine-tasting wheel to help participants identify flavors like lemon, raspberry, vanilla, grass, smoke, and many more. An illustration, by way of tasting four to six wines, follows the aroma identification and scoring.

For executives or VIPs, it often works better to raise the bar with a wine-tasting experience, with an offering such as Chef's Table, which we can do. For newbies, something like the Food and Wine Pairing Basic, which illustrates why some pairings work perfectly while others don't work at all, fits the bill. For us, that includes discussing seasoning and cooking methods of foods and how each of these influences the wine selection.

Other fun wine-related group activities include blind tastings. This exercise is more for a wine-savvy group. Wines can be bagged and numbered for the group to taste and identify, or participants are given six wine descriptions and six wines to taste and correctly match the appropriate description. Either way, this event will get your attendees chatting, laughing, and mingling.

But my personal favorites are the tastings that involve chocolate or herbs. This is a minimum of four wines, each tasted individually with at least two or three herbs to show how each herb affects the taste of the wine. This is almost a master-class in food and wine pairing! We do this event outside, when possible, or in the herb garden itself. Like the best kinds of wine-tasting gatherings, it's just great fun.

Mary Watson-DeLauder is chief wine officer at the National Conference Center, in Leesburg, VA, working with the herb gardener, bar manager, and executive chef to create a variety of wine programs and seminars for clients. Read more here.