My wife’s family is spread far & wide. Very wise strategy, but once in a while they get sentimental and hold a reunion — and then wonder why! This year it was in Zurich, where Anu’s brother, (G) lives. The other cataclysmic event in Zurich (other than our family reunion, that is) was the Annual Wine Festival. Inevitably, I got ensnared in both, and here is the gory story.
Every year in November, Zurich celebrates the International Wine Festival. (I am told that this happens irrespective of our family reunion). Vintners of every kind, from every corner of the earth, participate here and it is a high-brow event. This aroused much excitement in family circles. Not in me. I am not a connoisseur, but I can hold my drink well. Last Christmas I had a drink with friends and I am holding it even now!
One thing led to another, and G’s resourceful wife, Sarah, (there’s more about her in Switzerland on a wheelchair ) somehow wangled 2 free-passes for the wine-tasting event. Who would go? G had some official business and the ladies had decided to go shopping. So the passes devolved to us — my other brother-in-law (SK), and me. I remembered the spirit of last Christmas, and wanted to turn down the pass. Anu said — Turn down a wine-tasting event? And let the rest of the family think we have no class or fine aesthetic taste? Khaandaan ki Izzat mitti mey? Obviously, I couldn’t afford to throw Khaandaan ki izzat even on Swiss mitti, so I acquiesced.
A good thing too! This festival was held in the picturesque Zurich Lake. A flotilla of 3 luxury yachts had been anchored by the quayside and they were connected like a pontoon bridge. Every deck in every yacht had several stalls by both traditional and aspiring wine-houses. Wow, 100s of stalls and 1000s of wines — we were spoilt for choice!
Serene Lake Zurich: perfect for Wine Festival
The Wine Flotilla
I had read all about wine-tasting rituals. You first roll the glass, then roll your tongue and then roll your eyes; then chew some bread and again roll something or the other. The problem was: I knew what-to, but not how-to! At every stall, all the hostesses were fawning over SK, but not me. I first thought it was because he used Godrej hair-dye (it happens all the time in TV commercials). But surely, there was more to it. SK was a General in the army and had also served abroad; he knew something that I didn’t. I shamelessly asked him, and he made this astonishing revelation. Forget that you know nothing about the wine; but you MUST make a flowery commentary after every sip. And it MUST be completely unrelated to the wine. For example, you should say — this wine was mischievous, or that wine was brave. Oh? Or borrow terms from a completely unconnected science: like, how melodious the wine sounded or how it was created with bold brush-strokes; even better, raise an unfathomable question, “does this wine have a different philosophy?”. Either SK was a complete fool or a divine genius. I decided to find out.
What Gyaan! It worked in the very next stall. Before I knew it, I was a hit with the hostesses; they pumped huge amounts of White & Red Wine. I didn’t realise I was thirsty and was drinking wine like it was Jigarthanda: on fast-forward mode! There was a strong breeze in the Lake and the yacht-flotilla swayed a little. What caused the sway? Was it the breeze outside or the spirit inside? I looked at SK, was he “light” too? As usual, I used the direct approach to seek answers.
I proposed to SK that we move to the top deck and… umm … discharge our bladders into the Lake? (After all, there was Croatian, Argentinian, Australian and other international spirit in this venture?) Surprisingly, SK thought it was jolly good idea: a clear danger signal! So we decided to move to the lower decks and “look around”. One cabin had a German sign: “TOILETTEN”. Was it German for “ENGINE ROOM” or was it the plural of “TOILET” (like Yaaden is plural for Yaad in Hindi)? With patriotic fervour we applied the Hindi logic and yes, indeed these were toilets. But, there were 2 more doors and one of them said “HERREN”. That was easy — it was plural for “HERS”. Oops, wrong logic, because the other door said “DAMEN” which was plural of “DAME”! Damen, I mean Damn! “HERREN” is plural of “HERR”, and translates as “GENTLEMEN”! We rushed into “HERREN”, and found much needed relief! We never checked whether our contributions finally reached Lake Zurich, though.
We came to the upper deck of the next yacht and discovered this stall of wonderful Spanish wines with a hostess who looked like a lovely impressionist painting: all it took was a nice glass of “mischievous” red wine to bring her back into focus. We did that and now,she was stunningly charming!
Spanish Wine adds focus to everything, including a charming hostess!
She was as generous as she was charming, and poured us many glasses of fine spirit. Bravo! I have said this before, and I say it now: there is nothing like good Spanish wine. Viva los espanioles!
Khaandan ki izzat mitti mey = Family honour has been tossed into the mud
Mitti = mud or earth
Gyaan = Wise advice
Yaaden = memories
Jigarthanda = A milkshake like drink in South Tamilnadu