Back to the Wine Boats

The first year Tony and I lived in Zurich, we made sure to explore all the Zurich wine boats had to offer.  The wine boats are an annual tradition in Zurich. Boats are pulled together at the lakefront, and different wine distributors set up shop to sell their products.  This event is essentially  free wine tasting while floating stationary.

Our first time around in 2013, we struggled a bit.  Part of the struggle was the fear of the approach.  We hadn’t learned any German and didn’t know how to “get started” when it came approaching the stands to taste wine.  This year we were much braver.  So brave, in fact, that we brought our baby with us.

wine boats

Baby on a Boat

We received two different reactions from the people on the wine boats:

  1. Aw, she’s so cute!  What type of wine does she like?  Haha, I think I am so funny.
  2. Who the hell brings a baby to a wine tasting event? I hope she doesn’t cry and spill her tears in this 2004 merlot I’m sipping.

Of course we didn’t care.  We were as considerate about it as possible, strapping her to Tony’s chest rather than daring to push a stroller through crowds of people and small spaces.

Besides, the wine distributors themselves loved her.  Because of Matilda, we were able to get to the front of the line at most of the wine stands.  We also had the distributor’s full attention due to Matilda’s interaction with them, which meant more wine for us to taste.

wine boats

wine boats

Boat, bar or both?

We only stayed about an hour because the tiny space and amount of people made it very hot.  Matilda started to get antsy and fussy, and of course, we didn’t want her tears spilling into anyone’s wine glass.

We managed to leave with a few orders or wine, and are looking forward to their arrival.

wine boats

Over it

Some things I will share in regards to the wine boats:

  • I didn’t take my own advice from 2013, which was to RESEARCH in advance.  The guide you are given is alphabatized by distributor, not wine type or wine region.  This made it more difficult to identify which stands we really wanted to dedicate our time to.  I don’t know many people who buy wine based on the distributor, so if you are serious about purchasing wine, know what you want (specifically who distributes it) in advance.
  • I mentioned this in the original blog as well – eat before you go, and go on a week night.  We did follow this advice which was to our advantage.
  • You don’t need your wallet.  They bill you after they send you the wine but watch out – you tend to spend more money when drinking. I will soon be the owner of a case of Barolo I didn’t realize I wanted. 🙄
  • Check your coat.  The event is in late fall when it starts to get very chilly.  Most people hang onto their coats because you are temporarily outside when walking from boat to boat.  However, the boats are very hot given their size and the volume of people, and the coats just take up more space.

Here’s to another successful year on the wine boats, and to starting a new family tradition! 🙂

Zurich Wine Boats

Every fall, Zurich hosts an event in the lake near Burkliplatz for 2 weeks that we affectionately call the wine boats.  This year marks the 60th anniversary, and there was no way we were going to miss it.

The boats are all linked together so you can walk between them and the docks.  Aside from the wine vendors themselves, there are two boats set up as restaurants – one, happily, just for fondue.

There are approximately 4,500 different wines to try from all over the world, and after paying 20 francs, we were able to roam through.  The intent is to try the wine and then buy what you like.  We quickly realized the tastes we were given were very small, and some of the vendors seemed to have no interest.  Was it because they thought we wouldn’t buy?  Was it the language barrier?  Maybe, but we felt really awkward and uncomfortable at first.


What we came to realize was that in order for this to work, we needed some liquid courage.  Very similar to the chicken vs. the egg concept, we struggled through some of our taste requests to get just loose enough to get brave.  From there, we got creative.  We started to head to all of the stands that had no one standing around them and got served very quickly.  What blew my mind was that most of these stands were the local, Zurich Swiss wines and I couldn’t figure out why no one was interested in trying them.  Maybe because they were more easily accessible because they were already in Zurich and this was the one time a year to get wine from South Africa?  Who knows, but we took full advantage!

The whole situation made me feel just like Rose on the Titanic.  We were drinking delicious wine, swaying on the boats, having great conversation, Tony was my Jack – I was just glad they were docked and not out in the middle of the Atlantic!

After a few different tastings, we ended up ordering some wine to call our own.  We had a lot of fun in the educational process, the tasting, the smelling, the learning, the conversation.  We purchased some delicious Italian wine that was said to go great with pasta.

And we ordered some French Sauvignon Blanc for all of that fondue we plan on eating in the future.  Towards the end of the night, Tony found another Italian wine stand and also ordered some amazing olive oil.  I just have three words – nom nom nom.  The wine comes in boxes of 6 that we are splitting with our friends and will either be picked up by us or delivered within the next couple of weeks.


So my take aways for next year are as follows:

  • Always go on a week night – way less crowded
  • Make sure to eat something substantial in advance
  • Do some research – which ones are you actually interested in trying and buying
  • Slam a glass of wine ahead of time to give you more courage
  • Hit up the empty stands at the end of the night
  • Maybe bring your water floatie, just in case

Can’t wait to receive our wine!