French Fiesta: Aperitif à la Française, New Delhi

The third Thursday of June every year is celebrated as “Aperitif à la Française” day all around the globe. A French wine and culinary fiesta allows the connoisseurs and amateur lovers to spend some quality time enjoying French products, all in an effort to highlight how French produce is considered one of the most commendable ones around the globe. Hosted at Hotel Shangri-La, New Delhi, Sopexa together with the French Ministry of Food, Fisheries and Agriculture in New Delhi organised this event. It was a gathering of the discerning and the well-heeled, all sharing a common love for the arts of French gastronomy.

The room was soon filled with enticing aromas of cheese soufflé and raclette (a traditional French dish with, you guessed it, loads of cheese; tasty if you are eating it, smelly if you aren’t), and local drinks like Pastis, Champagne, wines both white and red from various regions were popped open in a seemingly endless flow. Some delicately prepared French delicacies were also on offer by Le Cordon Bleu (the famous French culinary school) and a recently-opened Mumbai-based patisserie Le 15 (pronounced ‘le kanz’ with the ‘an’ sounded to rhyme with fan). To kick start the evening, Mr. Sumeedh Mandala of Aspri Spirits, Mumbai-based importers, poured a Champagne fountain that caught everyone’s attention. This was a pyramid glass setup and wine is poured into the topmost glass, which then cascades down into the other glasses below till such point that the entire pyramid of glasses has champagne in it. So, no metaphors when someone tells you that Champagne was quite literally “flowing” at this event. as the glasses were being handed out some smart Alec went and took one from the bottom layer, thereby breaking the pyramid and leading to some precious spillage. Thankfully Schott Zweisel, the glass company was also present to help out with their fine stemware.

But all this was not it. Apart from all the hustle and bustle, the major event was yet to come: the Grape Crushing Ceremony, hosted by sommelier Magandeep SINGH. “A grape crush ceremony. Hmm!! Maybe, maybe not.” This is how the idea came out to us when we heard it first. Speaking to the crowd that had gathered most women at first seemed reluctant to participate. And this when we had taken all precautions to ensure that there were towels and fresh water enough to keep the post-crush stickiness at bay. We were almost fretting, wondering if women’s lib movements had reduced such to mere figments of an allegedly chauvinistic mind but when Magan announced the crushing formally open, the ladies at the venue were hard to hold back! They all jumped into the vat full of grapes almost as if in one synchronised step. The stomping began and all the pretty ladies grooved to the beat of some scintillating house music and squeezed some precious juice out of the grapes.  Men were later only too eager to join but were kept at bay and thankfully so. There is a certain unadulterated joy in watching women hold on to each other while they 

stomp around in a tub-full of grapes, an almost natural joy that is best not tampered with. No one was serious to make wines with these grapes but if wine were ever to be made, I assure you the ensuing en primeur auction would have been quite the tussle-fest among the guys!With all done and over in a matter of a few hours, the event was marked a resounding success and now people have a long wait till next year. Not only were our French amis happy to have a taste of their own land in Delhi but so were we; it saved us a trip. Mark your diaries for the next Aperitif event, no matter what is planned, we are sure it will be fun and we are somehow almost certain that you wouldn’t want to miss out.

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