Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The career-limiting Christmas wine list

Right outside our office window over the past year, we've witnessed construction workers walking along a crane gantry in quite high winds - a high-risk occupation by any measure. But I was tempted to swap places last week when by far the most daunting task of the year hit my office desk - selection of the Christmas party wine list.

This is an extremely career-limiting task. Roughly 50 palettes head down to a Southbank restaurant for the annual bonhomie that is the feature of the end of year Christmas party. And because we're in the process of merging, I've suddenly inherited a few additional palettes - with opinions! 

So the pressure is on - balancing the lolly water palettes of the Sauvignon Blanc set, with the 'sophisticated' tastes of the Pinot group and the raw Aussie bluster of the big bold Shiraz bloc. Add to this a 'salary cap' of $50 a bottle in a place where the cheapest drop is $45 a bottle and you are in very challenging territory.

These days, the task is not made easier by the proliferation of wine labels. I don't know what it is with the wine industry, but new 'brands' seem to pop up like daisies during the year. Gone are the days when the choice was basically Ben Ean Moselle or Asti Spumante for the more discerning (sorry, that was university days).

So why does this task fall to me? Yes, I'm responsible for brand in our organisation, but that doesn't mean to say I should be across every new label appearing in Dan Murphy's or Vintage Cellars. No. There is something far more fundamental.

You see, I'm relatively old, perceived as in the twilight of career by everyone except the Federal Government who believe I should work until they carry me out feet first to save the drain on the public purse. The logic is, therefore, that if I stuff up the Christmas wine selection, I have least to lose - less career years lost, diminishing prospects of promotion not too severely impaired.

There's also the view that caginess born of long experience will ensure I read the Gold medals on the bottles properly to ensure that the accumulated awards are from the Adelaide or Sydney wine shows, rather than the Bullamakanka Ladies Local Produce Awards. 

I have picked five wines for this year's luncheon, of which I will have to consume a reasonable quantity as I anxiously scan the dials of colleagues partaking of the first drops for signs of approval or disdain. 

For the record, I've picked the following varieties: a Prosecco (because the boss likes it), a WA Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (I had to add something to the SB to manage reputational risk), Pinot Gris (NZ) for the Pinot set, a Pinot Noir (the Pinot group is influential) and a McLaren Vale Shiraz (my favourite region for this variety because I bloody deserve it).

The Christmas wine list - not a job for the faint hearted!

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