For your next company event, amaze your employees and coworkers with a business party that’s unique and fanciful – a classy corporate wine and cheese event. Change up a boring business meeting or the same old office party with two of the fanciest elements in your arsenal: wine and cheese. We’ve teamed up with wine expert, Colleen Fanning, from Grey Market Wine, to bring you tips and tricks on selecting the right staples for your corporate event. Make your next business gathering the perfect pairing with these insider secrets to success.
How does one select the perfect wine?
When we presented this important question to Colleen Fanning, president and founder of Grey Market Wine, her initial response was an eye opening one. Fanning suggests selecting a wine for your corporate event should be mostly about what you want the wine to accomplish. Do you want to surprise people or invoke conversation? If so, Fanning warns to avoid standard banquet selections like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Merlot in favor of more off-beat selections. Fanning added, “I always like to pick something trendy (right now, think dry rosé, or Spanish/Italian bubbly) and something surprising (like a South African Chenin Blanc or Portugese Vinho Verde).” If you are aiming for more of a crowd-pleaser, a non-challenging approach, then try smaller production, non-commercial selections. That way you can show your guests something familiar, but something that is still relatively new to them.
How much wine?
In terms of quantity, Fanning points out that it really depends on your crowd (the major consumers), the length of the event, and what other beverage selections are available. For the average crowd of a wine-focused event (i.e., no spirits or beer available), Fanning plans for 2-3 glasses per person, which is roughly half a bottle of wine. So for a crowd of 300 for example, she suggests to go with around 150 bottles (or 12-13 12-bottle cases).
Where do I start? Wine or cheese?
The Grey Market Wine founder states that you can start picking your pairings either way – you can base your wine off your cheese choices, or vice versa. She uses the practical approach of starting with whatever is most specific or important to the budget. Since wine and cheese can both be rather pricey, start where you have the easiest in. If your company can spare no expense, you can research higher-end wines, and if you have a smaller budget for the event, then start with cheaper selections. Fanning points out that if you already have a product “in” then that would be the first place to start. For example, if you already have a cheese vendor lined up, start there. If you already has a bunch of wine in stock (or find a great sale), it makes sense to do it that way.


What are some “Can’t-Mess-It-Up-If-You-Tried” wine and cheese pairings?

Wine and cheese pairings are absolutely endless Fanning mused, but here are a couple simple rules to follow:

  1. Pair bloomy cheeses (Camembert, Brie, Taleggio) with sparkling wine or light crisp Pinot Blanc.
  2. Couple blue cheeses with sweet or off-dry wines, like Riesling, port, or Vouvray
  3. Fresh, non-aged cheeses (like Ricotta, Chevre, and Feta) go beautifully with younger, bright wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais, or Pinot Grigio.
  4. Hard cheeses that are sharp and salty cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan and Pecorino really need to be tasted with a prospective wine pairing, as the flavors have such a huge range. A personal favorite match of Fanning’s is Double Gloucester with a spicy, rich California Zinfandel.

Another tip from the expert? Don’t be afraid to experiment! You will find dozens of amazing options, just by trusting your instincts and playing to your curiosities!

What are the top trends in cheese selection for events right now? Best bet wines?
The biggest trend Fanning currently sees is letting the crowd experiment with pairings on their own. She recommends suggesting a few cheeses for each wine and/or a few wines for each cheese initially, and then allowing the guests taste and decide what they prefer individually. As with all food and wine pairings, the wine can either accentuate and enhance specific flavors, or contrast with a food and bring new flavors out. It’s a lot of fun to let the guests experience this first hand.
As a business owner, what do you recommend corporate planners have on hand in their personal stock?

Fanning points out that any wine cellar can be great (and more importantly, functional) with minimal effort. She likes to divide her personal wine stock up based on purpose:

  • Gifting
  • Food pairing
  • Conversation-starters and
  • Party wine are a few suggested categories.

What’s the benefit to business owners becoming part of a private members-only wine club?

Straight from the wine club expert herself: Fanning states that a great wine club (like Grey Market Wine) can serve as a “navigational buoy” of sorts. The wine world is vast–wine choices, trends, price points, collectible bottles–and having someone in your corner who understands your wine needs and meets you wherever you are in your wine journey can be an enormous advantage. Since wine isn¹t cheap, using resources (like a trusted local wine club or a sommelier friend) can save you from making costly mistakes along the way. These benefits and more come alongside a wine membership, not to mention the trendy talking points you’re going to pick up on the way for your next party conversations.

About The Author: Colleen Fanning

Meet our interviewee for this blog, Colleen Fanning. Fanning is the current BOSS (founder and principal) of Grey Market Wine, Indy’s most exclusive wine club. She is the former owner and Executive Director of the Brick Street Inn and Lobby Lounge wine bar in Zionsville. Fanning is passionate about the Indianapolis business community, and is a Past President of the Indy Chamber Ambassadors. She is a graduate of Emory University and UWCI’s Leadership United program. For fun, Fanning curates, which has gained a robust following spotlighting Indianapolis small businesses and lifestyle pieces in the food and wine space. In her spare time, she enjoys food, wine, being outdoors, travel, and living the village life in Broad Ripple with her husband, Jeff Bowman, and their spunky mutt, Wile E.