Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Someone You Should Know - Gloria Petersen of Global Protocol, Inc.

You might want to sit up straight before reading this post. And if you're enjoying a glass of wine right now, make sure you are holding it correctly!

Gloria Petersen, etiquette consultant and founder of Global Protocol, Inc. wants all of you to know that one of the major mistakes she sees diners frequently make is holding a glass by the bulb and not the stem. Holding a glass by the stem not only demonstrates your refinement, but it's also better for the wine, preventing it from becoming too warm from the heat of your palm.

Ms. Petersen has advised executives (and would-be executives) for companies both large and small. She has presented seminars for Caterpillar interns, Motorola diversity groups, and Microsoft account executives, to name a few. Her articles have appeared in Chicago Restaurant magazine, among other publications.

She began our interview by sharing some of the faux pas she has witnessed by some of her clients. Putting ice cubes in wine is one error she's seen frequently. Another mistake can take place during a multi-course dinner where the wines are pre-selected for each course. According to Ms. Petersen, "Don't sip a wine with a course that it's not paired with!" If you are not finished with a wine by the time the next course arrives, Ms. Petersen insists you should allow the wine to be removed with the finished course. One mistake I learned I make frequently is not really tasting the wine. There's clearly a difference between drinking and tasting! "If you just drink it, the wine is swallowed right away and you miss the benefits of the wine. The wine should briefly resonate on the tongue before swallowing, to capture its benefits."

Ms. Petersen advised me to focus on four parts of my tongue:

Sweetness: (found on the tip of the tongue)
Fruitiness: (middle of the tongue)
Acidity: (sides of the tongue and cheek area)
Tannin: (middle to back of the tongue and throat)

According to Ms. Petersen, each wine will respond most strongly to one part of your tongue and you will appreciate wine much more if you can identify that place with each wine you taste.

When you are ordering wine for a large group at dinner, Ms. Petersen advises you look for what she calls a "crossover wine"; i.e. wines that will fit most dishes and most palates, (e.g. blush wines and Pinot Noir). Her preferred combo is a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Grigio. However, other popular choices are a Syrah or Merlot and a Chardonnay. Ideally, order one bottle of red and one of white; "people like choices."

If you are undecided what to select, in a restaurant, at least inquire about the restaurant house wine; this is usually a choice that will appeal to a large cross section of palates. Another idea is to ask if the restaurant has a signature entree, and what wine might pair effectively with that.

According to Ms. Petersen, "Restaurants want you to think of them as beyond simply serving you." She offered some excellent advice on how to work effectively with your wine director/sommelier. If possible, contact the restaurant ahead of time, share your budget with their host, and take a look at their wine list (many wine lists are posted online now). Ask questions about some of the wines your are considering. If you are pre-selecting a wine for your group, familiarize yourself with the vintage so that you can give your guests some information about the wine you selected. "Guests love to be educated about wine."

After you have ordered a bottle, there's an important ritual that is common in most upscale restaurants. It's important to understand what is happening when the wine is first presented to your table, and why. Ms. Petersen explains, "The wine will be presented and you need to confirm that this is the exact wine and vintage you ordered. You should feel the cork, but not smell it; a cork from a quality bottle should feel a little moist on the bottom after it has been pulled. Ask for a taste of the wine, just to ensure it does not have a vinegar flavor." Be very discreet when doing this; don't try to show off." She's seen too many examples of diners who don't know nearly about wine and protocol as they think and send a perfectly good wine back because he or she did not particularly like it.

"Ideally, wine at the table is about building rapport and camaraderie", says Ms. Petersen, and I will remember her pointers whenever I am entertaining guests in the future.

Please check out Ms. Petersen's two web sites
www.globalprotocol.com, and www.gloriapetersen.com. (Special thanks to another etiquette expert, Jacqueline Whitmore, who placed me in touch with Ms. Petersen. Please click on her website at www.etiquetteexpert.com for more great tips.)

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