Terrace parties are always so much fun!
When we were kids, our terrace parties would be massive group activities, everyone pitching in to set up the perfectly cosy and deliciously smoky BBQ on our open terrace. Marinating and foiling meats and vegies, getting the brick and coal oven fired up and roasting, setting up an overloaded table with snacks, soft drink, plates and cutlery, hoisting up large bulbs (often cloaked in red paper for the right ‘atmosphere’) on a pole, putting up streamers and floor rugs, and getting some foot-tapping music with the all-important boom-box, booming and boxing late into the night…
We only realize now how these were early ‘life-lessons’ in management, team work, socialising and the quintessential Indian trait of ‘Jugaad’ – the more street smart you were, the more you could get things done at the snap of your fingers, and naturally the more popular you were in the group…
A few decades later, the terrace party at Chamber’s at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai was somewhat different … 😉
The entrance to the terrace was a beautiful walk through a tunnel of grape vines, with luscious green and black REAL grapes hanging low over your head in tempting bunches. Nope, no evidence of streamers here!
No painstaking, smoke-billowing BBQ either. But laid out was a classy buffet of finger food by Chef Hemant Oberoi’s team, of which the delicious Chilli Prawns and the juicy Dim Sums were my absolute favourites.
The boom-box too would have been out of place here, since a live jazz-and-blues band was striking up a lively mood, playing familiar classics.
The sagging table loaded with PET bottles of soft drinks was nowhere in sight – instead, accompanied by the gentle lapping of the Arabian Sea, spread out impressively under a velvety Mumbai winter night, and set against the elegant backdrop of the majestic Gateway of India, were several wine booths pouring out aromatic reds and crisp whites from all over the world! It was the prestigious launch of the Taj Private Label, a signature series of 4 red and 2 white wines carefully crafted, curated and bottled exclusively for the Taj group of hotels, hand-picked from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France and India.
I soon realized, with an inward smile, that the glass I was holding was not a plastic one with Gold Spot in it! Instead, it was a fine-stemmed wine glass, which ushered me around the terrace, familiarising me with the crisp Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the full-bodied Bordeaux by Cos D’Estournel of France, the rich Penfolds Koonunga Hills Cabernet Shiraz from Australia, the Palais Toscana and Pinot Grigio from Italy, and a playfully, colourfully labeled bottle of aromatic Indian red by Fratelli named Svara. It so happened that I met these fine new friends several times that evening! 😉
Speaking of friends, my specky, pimply teenage co-conspirators and BFFs from those long-ago terrace parties were long gone, settled in their happy lives in distant lands. In their place today were distinguished men and women from the wine industry – wine enthusiasts, ambassadors, experts, writers, trainers and sommeliers like Bhisham Mansukhani, Magandeep Singh, Abhas Saxena, Aneesh Bhasin, Sayoni Bhaduri, Sonal Holland, Vaniitha Jaiin, Vishal Kadakia, Rojita Tiwari and Antoine Lewis.
But if you thought they only did ‘wine-speak’ and rattled off wine notes and tannins instead of English in their conversations, think again! These new friends were equally, if not more, adept at getting a party started. Tippling and teetering, munching and sipping, giggling and gobbling, we chatted about everything from local street food to food street locations, pooled together seriously funny anecdotes from our extensive travels, and dissected real life comedies (AIB’s Roast of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor and TVF’s Arnub ‘Barely Speaking’ to ShahRukh Khan) and past life tragedies (someone who goes through 7 heartbreaks and lives to tell the tale deserves a crown!).
As our group of merry tipplers continued with the good-hearted banter and cheerful repartees late into the night, I realized that everything about a terrace party might have changed over the years, but what remained unchanged and irrepressible through the years was the ‘spirit’ of the terrace party. And so we drank some more to that spirit, to keeping it alive and kicking, and to the shared love for good wines and good times…