When I travel, I like coffee within reach. I need coffee first thing upon waking up and the thought of having to shower and get dressed before my first cup of coffee is not appealing at all. When I travel with my daughters, it isn’t just coffee that we keep a stock of. Food too. The no-prep or easy-to-prep kind. Bread, muffins… that kind of stuff.
On our first evening in Hanoi after we had done a little shopping and photography, Sam and I searched for a grocery, picked up eggs, cheese, bread, fruit and, because I was lucky enough to find it, giò thủ (Vietnamese head cheese).
Then, Sam asked if she could get beer. Sure, I said, adding that I’d get a bottle of wine for myself. She paused and muttered, half to herself, why bother getting beer when she could have wine too. She stopped browsing the shelves of beer and joined me in perusing the various wines available.
There were the usual stuff. French. Italian. Then, we saw Vietnamese wine. Vang Dalat. Why not? When in Vietnam, try everything Vietnamese, right? We chose a bottle of red, paid the bill, and got a Grab ride back to the apartment.
We had a lovely apartment in Hanoi. Huge at 50 square meters considering there were only two of us. It had a kitchen with basic utensils and tools, a sink with hot and cold water, dishwashing liquid, cooking oil, condiments, plates, bowls, spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks, cutting board… And an eating area.
We showered, watched some TV… Speed, I think, with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, was on that night. Or it could have been the Death Wish remake with Bruce Willis which we would see several more times over the next seven days. Curious, really, because in Saigon less than a month earlier, Alex complained that was no other English movie on cable except Die Hard. I didn’t mind. I love Die Hard, I’ve seen it a hundred times and I’d watch it again. But Death Wish, I couldn’t even sit long enough to watch in its entirety the first time I encountered it. But, I digress…
It was time for some wine. We had already planned on how to go about it. Slice the head cheese and cheese, arrange them on a plate with wedges of dragonfruit, pour the wine into glasses and take photos. Because, of course, I intended to blog about the Vietnamese wine experience.
Sam prepped the meat, cheese and fruit plate. I grabbed the wine, peeled off the wrapping around the mouth and discovered, to my dismay, that we needed a corkscrew. I hadn’t really combed through everything in the kitchen at that point. It was our first day there, after all, and we went out not long after checking in. As far as I knew, there was no corkscrew.
As disappointed as we were, we just agreed that we had no choice but to get a corkscrew the next day and open the wine in the evening. Sam wrapped the meat, cheese and fruit plate with cling film. It would have to wait if we were going to play with our cameras.
The following day, we located Daiso and bought more supplies — dishwashing liquid, sponge, bath soap, snacks and, you guessed it, a corkscrew. But we didn’t open the wine yet when we got back to the apartment. It was around 5.00 p.m., it was Friday and the night market would open in an hour or so. We went out again, shopped and then, finally, it was time to try the Vietnamese wine.
The first sip gave the impression of tart berries. The second and third sips felt more acidic in the mouth. I took the bottle and read the tiny print at the back. Oh, okay, the wine is made with mulberry and grapes. That should explain the tart berries taste. Too early to give up on Vang Dalat though. Some wines sort of taste better as you get progressively drunk.
I finished a glass and poured another. Midway through my second glass of Vang Dalat, a strange aftertaste formed in my mouth. I couldn’t quite decipher if it was bitterness or acidity, or a mixture of the two. It wasn’t pleasant. I gave up after my second glass.
I have no idea how many glasses Sam had but, to put it simply, she did re-insert the cork in the mouth of the wine bottle because… right, we didn’t finish the bottle of Vang Dalat.
Looking back, when Sam said she was getting beer at the grocery, I should have chimed in and said I’d get beer too! Asian beer is superb and I hear that Vietnamese beer is no exception. But wine? Vang Dalat wasn’t the best wine experience but if you’re just looking for something alcoholic, it’ll do.