Short story: The Expovina wine boats attract 70,000 visitors in 2 weeks. I’ve worked on the boats splashing out wine and know: for sanity’s sake you need a strategy to avoid the crowds!

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The Expovina wine boats attract 70,000 visitors in 2 weeks. That’s nearly 20% of Zurich’s population meandering around on 12 small boats.

We’ve attended 10 years in a row. From know-nothing newbies in 2008 to later, highly-trained ringleaders.

Heck, I even worked on the boats for 2 years, splashing out wine to mobbed “tasters”.

Believe me when I say: for sanity’s sake you definitely need a strategy to avoid the crowds!

In fact I’d wager that your entire experience — provided you enter for free and find wines you’re likely to enjoy — hinges on the crowd.

Sure maybe that sweaty, steamy, slightly seasick shoulder-to-shoulder feeling works great at Street Parade. Not so much when you literally can’t find space to raise a wine glass in front of you. Can barely touch a wine list. Or can’t hear yourself over the din. And do you think the servers put on their friendliest faces for the mob?

No if you just wanted to randomly drink, you’d be much better off at a bar.

If you actually want find and taste good wines and have fun with friends, you need to strategically choose your times.

Let our experience be your guide and plan ahead for one of the following:

Thursday, Nov 1

Surprise! Opening Evening

One of the absolute best days to attend is surprise! Day 1. Although Expovina wine boats adverts have already hung all over Zurich trams and billboards for a week or more, nobody’s really ready for the boats to appear.

Another advantage counts too — that servers are fresh, not yet exhausted and burned out. They DO sometimes carry an attitude on Day 1. Not because of you personally. More because they’re braced for what’s to come and you’re the vanguard. But that’s the least of your worries. Cruise right in!

Wine boats open from 13.00 – 21.00.

Friday, Nov 2

The only non-crazy weekend evening

If you don’t want to attend on weekday evenings, the only non-insanely-crazy weekend evening is the first Friday night, Nov 2. Again the realization that those same 12 boats are pouring the same 4,000 wines in the same place as the last 65 years hasn’t yet struck the general population.

Especially if you sneak out of work a bit early, say 17.00 or 17.30 rendezvous at Bürkliplatz, you’ll enjoy a few hours of relatively unimpeded wine tasting fun.

Wine boats open from 13.00 – 21.00.

Sundays, Nov 4 & 11

Go early and the Expovina wine boats are yours!

My personal favorite tip and time. Yes, while the good people of the world leave church late Sunday morning, plan to ride some wine boats. It requires advance planning in that you can’t stay out too late on Saturday night. You’ll either oversleep or simply be too cottonmouthed for Sunday.

And yes, earlier is really better. The most free space you’ll find during the full 2 week event comes around 11.00 – 13.00 particularly on the first Sunday, Nov 4.

If server attitude factors into your decision, you’ll also find the most welcoming nods and winks across the counters early on Sundays. Servers are wine fans and they respect your day’s “sacrifice” to taste in open space and pay some attention to what’s going on.

Wine boats open from 11.00 – 19.00.

Weekdays before 6:00 pm

“Work from home” one afternoon

For professional, corporate-travel jet-setters, another great rarely-exercised option. Get your work done early, then block an afternoon for half-day holiday or — if the office owes you time from slaving on “that project” — block some working-away time. You can still answer emails on your Blackberry or whatever.

You don’t need to kill an entire half work day. Even a 15.00 or 15.30 arrival provides several good hours before the crowds. Warning: you must enjoy chatting with retired people to take this approach. Because they crawl all over those Expovina wine boats each afternoon and have no other conversation partners just then.

Wine boats open from 13.00 – 21.00.

Thursday, Nov 15

The last day

Not the absolute greatest but if you don’t attack the early options above, procrastination works too. I envision the final evening as a collective relieved sigh from servers and staff. The relief filters into the crowd, who also realize they waited too long and become less demanding. After much depleted wine inventories and energy over 2 weeks, the final evening represents a relaxed celebration of accomplishment. Enjoy the chill mood.

Wine boats open from 13.00 – 21.00.

Avoid! The entire second week

If you’ve read this far, you’ll likely make an effort to attend a recommended time above. For those unable to organize their schedule, their friends or themselves, a final tip.

Particularly avoid the evenings of Nov 8-10 (second Thursday-Friday-Saturday) — seriously the worst! — and Nov 13-15 (final week Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday). Unless you enjoy sobriety among a stifling, jostling, unhappy crowd.

Anchors aweigh!

With those time slots you’ll find the Expovina wine boats thoroughly more enjoyable.

And indeed the most sensational annual wine tasting in Zurich and Swtizerland… zum Wohl!


Are you an Expovina veteran? Did we nail it or do you have other recommendations? We’d love to hear your comments below.

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