James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

You Can’t Come to Bhutan and Not Try the Peach Wine, Apparently

You Can’t Come to Bhutan and Not Try the Peach Wine, Apparently

Beer and Peach Wine in Bhutan

I was feeling pretty good about life. I had three days off and was visiting Bhutan. The clock had barely struck eight, and I’d finished the hike up to Tiger’s Nest (my main reason for visiting) at a good pace. I’d taken a nap on the way back to my hotel in Thimpu, and had inhaled a dozen momos with a plate of ema datshi (green chilies and cheese–what’s not to love?) when I got back.

Celebratory beers were in order. The hotel bar (or resto-bar rather, as the one dining establishment in the joint would become after the last order) was quiet. Apart from me, there was an older couple at the corner table. The waiter-bartender recommended a local brew called “Red Panda.”

“Cool name,” I said, as he placed a bottle on my table and popped the lid. “Did you know that red pandas are vegetarian carnivores?”

The bartender informed me that he did not, but that it was good to know. I have a habit of repeating random trivia. I kept going. “Yeah, actually. Apparently carnivore is a biological classification—not all carnivores are carnivores.”

The first sip of the beer was almost sour. Not a bad kind of sour, but a tartness that caught me off-guard.Two beers later, the bartender had a name, and I’d confessed to him that I want to write.

“You mean you want to be a writer,” said Danny. I’d always wondered what it was about bartenders that made them so easy to talk to. I mean, sure, the drinking helps. And they don’t necessarily say a lot, but they do ask the right questions.

“The beer grows on you,” I said. The cloudy brew (a hefeweizen) would’ve gone great with the ema datshi. I asked for my bill and said I’d try something else tomorrow.

“Have you tried the peach wine? You can’t come to Bhutan and not try the peach wine,” said Danny, “the tourists usually love it.”

“Mhm,” I nodded, unconvinced. I like peaches, and I like wine, but the combination sounded suspiciously sweet.

He disappeared into a back room. When he came back to my table, he poured me a sip from a frosted cool bottle of ZumZin: “Try it.”

It looked more like wine than I’d expected: like a pale, faintly green sauvignon blanc, almost. I cautiously lifted the glass to my nose. It smelled like a burst of summer. The wine is made from peaches grown in the highlands of northern Bhutan.

I took a sip: peachy, and fruity, light, but sweeter than I’d hoped. Still, perhaps it would pair well with a sunny afternoon back home.

“So,” he asked, “know any facts about peaches?”

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