Tips For Creating Great Wine Events

In-person wine events are having a resurgence once again. We have missed them throughout the pandemic and are happy to see them return. They might be small gatherings for friends or team building events for major businesses, but the best of them leave consumers walking away with nuggets of precious wine knowledge.

So, I recently sat down with a master of wine events: Michael Green. The New Yorker literally grew up in the wine business and worked for the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine for many years heading up trade and consumer education. All responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Liza B. Zimmerman (L.B.Z.): What made you become a wine educator?

Michael Green (M.G.): I started working in the wine industry at the age of six when I began to accompany by dad to work at Acker Wines: the oldest wine shop in America. He worked there for forty years and I would work with him on weekends. I never thought that I would enter the profession or become a wine educator. I just wanted to spend time with my dad.

In my late teens, and early twenties, I realized that most people don’t know much about wine beyond it being fermented grape juice. While at the shop I was often asked the same questions: how do you taste wine, what makes this wine different from another, when is a wine ready to drink. I wanted to make people feel more comfortable with a beverage that I am so passionate about. So, at the age of 22 I started a wine school.

L.B. Z.: What do you love about your profession?

M.G.: I am a wine edu-tainer and I want to make people more comfortable and confident with wine.

L.B. Z.: Who have you worked with in the past?

M.G.: Most of the work that I do now is with corporations. My client list includes Fortune 500 companies and startups.

L.B. Z.: What did you study to get your wine knowledge?

M.G.: On-the-job training. When I was in my early twenties, I became a wine buyer and was buying Bordeaux futures and meeting and buying wines from the top producers. I was blessed to be working with some amazing agents and I tell my students that there is no better way to learn about wine then by opening a bottle and tasting it.

L.B. Z.: What do you suggest your clients read if they are curious about wine?

M.G.: There are so many books about wine. For beginners, I would recommend Wine on the World by Kevin Zraly and The Wine Bible by Karen McNeil. If you want to get a bit geeky about wine and you are interested in history, I suggest you immediately pick up Wine Wars and Wine Wars Two written by Mike Veseth. My favorite wine book is Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch.

L.B. Z.: What did you do with Gourmet and how did your events affect the magazine’s wine coverage and bottom line?

M.G.: I was the wine consultant to Gourmet Magazine for nineteen years (until the magazine sadly closed). I worked on the publishing side of the magazine, not the editorial side. So, if you advertised the pages of Gourmet, I would often create a wine, food, or travel experience for the advertiser’s clients

L.B. Z.: How do you organize events? Are they planned around a wine, a food pairing, an educational program?

M.G.: It always starts with the corporate client and what their goals are. It could be a seated wine tasting, a stand-up event, a wine dinner, or a trip to Napa or Bordeaux.

L.B. Z.: What is the ideal size for an event and why?

M.G.: From my perspective, there is not an ideal size. I create wine experiences for groups of twelve and for groups of one thousand or more. My presentation style is very theatrical—I graduated from New York’s well-known High School for the Performing Arts—and varies depending on group size.

L.B. Z.: How do you gauge your audience’s level of wine savvy?

M.G.: Intuition. I think the statistic is something like 20 percent of the American population consumes over 80 percent of wine, so I generally start of by gauging the audience with a few questions. My presentation style is story-driven. It is connective. So even if people know the information already, I present it in a fresh way.

L.B. Z.: How long should a wine education program last?

I find that virtual tastings are best when they are 60 to 75 minutes. In-person wine tastings work best when they are 90 minutes to two hours. Wine dinners last two to three hours.

L.B. Z.: What are some of your favorite themes you have used in the past?

M.G.: I do region-, grape- and producer-focused events and some themes are Le Tour de France, Made in the USA, the Colors of Spain and Italy in a Glass.

With my focus on corporate America, I now focus on themes including Great Wines by Great Women, Leadership in a Glass and A Taste of Diversity. I also have teambuilding experience called You’ve Bought a Winery! Now What?

L.B. Z.: What is the nicest compliment a guest ever paid you?

M.G.: A guest commented that, “Listening to Michael Green speak about wine is like witnessing a sensory explosion!”

L.B. Z.: How did wine events change during the pandemic, and do you expect these trends to last?

M.G.: Virtual, virtual and virtual. And this is not going away. The nice thing about virtual events is that you can bring together clients and employees who are not able to be there in person.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizazimmerman/2022/12/07/tips-for-creating-great-wine-events/