Last month, the beautiful and vibrant people of Chiang Mai did the sensible thing and gathered early one Friday evening to kick off the inaugural Citylife Wine Crawl. The aim was to skilfully navigate 13 wine bars, stopping off for a snifter at each, indulging in games and uploading photos to social media in order to score points. And as we all know, points win prizes! So, it was the beautiful and the vibrant that started on the mission to end the night older, a little less vibrant, still beautiful, and perhaps just a little wiser.
Now, there was not a chance in hell that I was going to stay away from the reds, whites and rosés, so what follows may contain some glaring inaccuracies, possible libel and a total misunderstanding of events, for which I would like to apologise, but don’t.
Around a dozen teams assembled at the welcoming and rather elegant I’m Chair in early evening, many sporting fancy dress, to pick up their game cards, pretend to listen to the rules and knock back the first glass of something fruity. As the sun bid farewell over Doi Suthep, the game was afoot, as Sherlock Holmes never said.
The wine bars included That’s Wine, owned by famous Thai celebrity Tai Penpak; Wine Terminal, a spanking new venue aiming to attract the younger crowd; and Vulcano, where the aim of the game was to achieve as little mess as possible with a raw egg introduced to another person’s trousers. House of Wine was very popular with drinks at only 50 baht a pop for the night, and Why Not? was particularly welcome because after a few glasses of grape juice there is nothing quite as appreciated as a 30 baht slice of pizza. And the apple bobbing was a stroke of genius. So simple. So elegant.
Then there were Sahara, where many teams were spotted wolfing down some mezzes; Kitchen Cultures with a fun lip-reading game; Green Table which provided some delicious wine, food platters and, rather wonderfully, iPads so that competitors could email worried family members back home about how the night was progressing; Wine Factory where one had to wade through the throngs of beer drinkers; followed by some hysterical karaoke at Y Lover. One of the outstanding moments of the evening was a virtuoso performance by a Dutch father and son duo.
Wine has a fantastic ability to loosen the inhibitors in one’s brain. This can either be positive – I know of more than several people whose wonderful spouses and beautiful children all came about after the immortal line: “One more glass then?” But there is a darker side to booze. And I’m afraid “One more glass then?” also leads to that most nefarious of practice: cheating.
Since the first ever recorded Wine Crawl in Greece in 693 BC, governments around the world have been attempting to stamp out this insidious practice. I do not wish to name and shame here, but you know who you are, and it is you that have to live with it. Yes, I’m talking specifically to the team that had set up a slush fund with which to bribe staff for extra points. I have been reliably informed that other teams were offering cash in exchange for an additional, and undeserved, rubber stamp in their cards.
I was, however, extremely impressed to witness one of the teams having a healthy debate on the ethics of pinching an ink stamp carelessly abandoned by a member of staff at one of the establishments. The team did agree to leave the stamp where it was found after one upstanding member pointed out that even so-called victimless crime is not to be tolerated, thereby walking away with perhaps the most valuable prize of the night: integrity.
The evening culminated at Sangdee Gallery, where it was quite obvious that El Patio’s offer of a free sangria splash from a porron – a pointy spouted drinking vessel invented by the Spanish that ejaculates over everyone in the vicinity as soon as it is tipped – was obviously a huge success, by the look of everyone’s shirts. The beautiful and vibrant were looking slightly sodden and worn by this point.
A huge thank you has to go out to Green Table and Oasis Spa for their ridiculously generous prize vouchers, and to all the venues that gave out wine prizes. It was, in the end, youth that prevailed with the Django Uncorked team snatching victory in a rather messy tie-breaking game of “pin the pins on a shirt”.
They may have come out on top, but the big prize of the night, I think we can all agree, was making new friends. Wine is all well and good, but only becomes the truly exceptional drink that it is when shared and appreciated by people who are enjoying themselves. And enjoy ourselves we did. The teams were a delightful mix of youth and maturity, Thais and farang, students and retirees, gay and not-so-sure. Here’s to hoping another Citylife Wine Crawl is not far off.
Finally, a respectful nod to the octogenarian who put most of the younger drinkers to shame with his staying ability. Also to the Citylife staff who made sure that nobody made a wrong turn and ended up in a dodgy massage parlour on the ring-road asking the hostess if they might try a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Marvellously it was all captured on film, or pixels, with Citylife’s photographers running around all night like the true professionals they are. I believe there were three of them, although I was definitely seeing nine by Sangdee. All those wishing to relive their foolishness can do so at www.City-Now.com.