Why a little knowledge is a great networking tool

Roger Hart, Addleshaw Goddard

I discovered a few years ago, completely through luck not design, that having a level of knowledge of wine is a fantastic and novel way to meet and bond with new business people.

Why? Because people who are ‘into wine’ (which, in my experience, means only that they take more interest in what’s in their glass – grape variety, country, producer and vintage – than the average person) tend to acquire that interest in their late 30s and beyond. So they’re at an age when they’re likely to have reached a level of seniority within their business which makes them attractive contacts to other business people and, indeed, professionals like me.

The type of conversation you have is also different. Anyone can invite someone to a football match or for drinks or lunch, but do you really bond at these events? And the chances are that your interlocutor has been invited to plenty of the same by others, because anyone can do that and everyone does.

Whereas, when two people with an interest in wine meet for the first time, they’re each meeting someone with the same interest and from the same small pool. An animated conversation and follow-up always results in my experience.

Since I developed some knowledge of wine a few years ago, it has without doubt helped me to win clients and to solidify lots of other relationships. New contacts often get introduced to me not for my supposed legal knowledge, but because the three people in that triangle have a passion for wine.

But you don’t have to be an expert to do this; a bit of knowledge combined with the curiosity to learn about and try new wine styles, often together, is all that’s needed. So much information is now free on the internet.

Lots of women love wine, but networks around wine (principally purchasing, tastings, dinners and other events) have historically been dominated by men. Go to a wine dinner and it would be all men. But that’s changing as the number of women with income comparable to men increases. I read recently that women with an interest in wine are likely soon to outnumber men and I see plenty of women at the wine dinners I attend or host.

So how do you acquire enough knowledge about wine to not show yourself up when you’re talking about wine with someone who knows a lot about it? You can read books and magazines of course (Decanter magazine is brilliant and accessible), but the most important thing is simply to pay attention to the bottles you’re drinking – what grape variety is it, what country is it from, which region in that country is it from, what year is it and who made it.

You’ll soon work out the grapes you like and don’t like, the countries and regions you prefer the grapes you like to come from, whether you prefer young, fruity and tannic wines or more mature wines and whether certain producers always hit the spot for you. Those facts are really the basis of most wine conversations and knowledge.

And I also host informal, small group wine dinners every few months – drop me a line!


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