The Viu Manent winery near Santa Cruz, Chile, hosts business groups at its “Winemaker for a Day” team-building programs.
By CHRISTINE NEGRONI and STACY SLINKARD / Published: April 30, 2013
IT seems counterintuitive for companies to take their employees somewhere where the alcohol begins to flow even before lunch is served. But wineries around the world are increasingly accommodating businesses asking for meeting space, catering and even wine-making lessons for their workers.
These are not drunken office parties; most of the alcohol consumption is associated with supervised wine-making activities, and top executives are usually present, says Mauricio Romo, tourism manager at the Viu Manent vineyard in Chile, who said he had not seen “bad behavior” in the five years his winery had offered business meetings. At the same time, once guests learn how complex winemaking is, company goals seem more achievable, Mr. Romo said.
Here is a sampler of vineyards offering corporate retreats.
With smocks over their casual business clothes, guests at Viu Manent, near Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley about 90 miles south of Santiago, go out in the vineyard and pick grapes. Or, if they prefer, they can do what employees of Bayer did recently: blend wine, design labels and market their finished product in an exercise called “Winemaker for a Day.” Participants aren’t creating anything Wine Spectator is going to review, but the vineyard’s tourism manager says they may pay more attention at a meeting like this one.
“The objective for large companies is to take their executives prisoner in order to concentrate their attention,” Mr. Romo said, describing an excursion that might begin at 7 a.m. in Santiago, the capital, with a two-hour bus ride to the valley. “After a coffee, they have their telephones amputated from their soul so they can concentrate on the message.”
How much time will be spent as amateur viticulturists depends on the agenda and what the boss wants to accomplish. But a day always ends with a dinner and generous servings of the Malbec that Viu Manent is known for. The vineyard has indoor and outdoor meeting facilities appropriate for groups of all sizes and a plan for overnight accommodations is in the works.