Mr. Bacchus seems to be my constant social companion these days! You know, the guy up there in the skies who is in charge of all things wine, as well as all the merry-making associated with it… And speaking of social companion, it seems ‘wine’ and ‘connection’ are 2 words that are exactly and inexorably synonymous!
In the last few months, every get-together, party or event I have attended, whether it was a wine-tasting session, or a new menu introduction, a food festival in UK, or a night out with elite company at a swish European bar in Moscow, a meeting with wine producers and marketers, or a pub night downtown with a good Sangria, wine has been a great stimulator… of conversations, contemplations and connections!
I believe that not all bonhomie is born of booze. The sheer joy of meeting, chatting, gossiping and exchanging notes on favourite foods and mediocre Merlots (often interspersed with a giggle here or a guffaw there!) with fellow ‘winers’ is enough to keep the spirits up and going, although sometimes – only sometimes! – the rich dark-red fluid coursing through the veins adds a whole new dimension to the night.
Take for instance the gathering at the Mumbai Wine Fest over the weekend. A seemingly disconnected, glittering crowd of wine-drinkers converged on our own little city cape, fondly called the Radio Club Pier. It was unusually cold for Mumbai – at an unseasonal 10 degrees, one could almost catch a whiff of mothballs amidst all the Chanels and CKs floating in the chilly night air! But the warm twinkly lights, the fluttering white tents, the casual wooden tables crowded with cheerful faces, and the peppy salsa beats from the stage swayed the crowds into a cocoon of warm camaraderie, oblivious to the dipping mercury. The ‘happiness meter’ kept rising, and it was only partly wine-induced.
Everywhere you looked, there were smiling groups of people dotting the pier, like pretty islands floating on the sea. A group of young travellers from France was grooving along with the music as they sipped on the rich South African white, The Wolftrap, from Wine Kart. A noisy bunch was living it up at the water’s edge, hooting and dancing while cradling bottles of Jacob’s Creek. A clutch of serious foodies languished around the food stalls, sharing platefuls of Philly Cheese Steak burgers by Mocha, Pork Chops and Kebabs from the busy BBQ stall, Chaats from Soam, and nibbly Cheese Platters from Go, while enjoying the fruity richness of the Nero D’avola from Reveilo. But what was conspicuous was the ‘girl groups’. While some giggled and gossiped happily at the tables, others exclaimed excitedly over the delicious Georgian wines, especially their Rkatseteli, sourced from some of the oldest wineries of the world, while still others coyly accepted extra-large pourings of wines from smiling attendants at the stalls. One group of girls in stockings and boots (when else do you get a chance to show off your fancy kicks in Mumbai??) looked wistfully at the large tub of plump and juicy black grapes, readied for stomping… Much later, they were seen walking out of the pier with grape-stained feet, boots waving high in the air, singing Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’! Go girl power!
Our group started with just Teddy and me, but grew to a lively action-packed herd of 10 within the hour. We were far from saintly in our demeanour – we had our very own hilarious and lovable circus act in chirpy Radio Jockey Rohini, who was attempting to balance full glasses of wine on her head, and mostly failing! Others included Prahlad Kakkar, an eminent Ad Guru, Elita, a Public Relations livewire, Shruti, a bright and beaming Blogger, Mel and Steph, two braveheart Australian girls on their first breathless trip to India, along with Yashas and Abhijit, their Couch-Surfing hosts, and in the middle of it all Teddy, the genial-going-on-boisterous perpetrator. It was a special, shared thread connecting us with each member of the crowd present there – we were all united in our enjoyment and celebration of the two strongest bonds that exist – friendship, and a shared glass of wine!