Across the Bridge - Oct/Nov 2018
For decades, in print and cocktail prattle, I’ve touted the Mississippi Coast as the best place on earth for festivals.
From Oyster Eve in the Pass to Dolly Should in the Bay, nobody does it better or more frequently. Even if you forgot all about Mardi Gras – and who would? - the Gulf Coast culture is sewn up with gossamer get-down, get-together thread.
And I still say we should win some kind of national title for hosting elaborate shindigs at the start of a season or drop of a hat.
Across the Bridge
I recently visited relatives in the town of 4,800 just after grape harvest. Freinsheim is at the center of seven wine-making villages. How’s that for convenient geography? So it’s a big deal when the grapes are picked and the new crop sampled.
Let me tell you about the party.
One Saturday afternoon on cue thousands of people wound their way through the endless grape vineyards and walked for miles into the sunset. But this was no sweaty, non-stop marathon in the name of exercise. Oh, no.
We had only just entered the orchard when appeared the first kiosk selling tall glasses of new wine. The glasses were dimpled, the better to hold them, and the general idea was to throw back refreshment as you made your way forward to the next wine filling station.
Thus refreshed, we tramped on for another few hundred yards and then did it all again. You could sip or chugalug, didn’t matter. You knew where your next drink was coming from.
Not everyone walked the entire course. Some cheated. A few families set up picnic tables between the vineyard rows and ate and drank at their leisure. Some lounged on cushioned chairs provided, I suppose, by the various wineries.
I kept walking and drinking, which is a lot easier than you might imagine. The new wine had about a six percent alcohol content, roughly a beer’s worth. I’ve done the same thing getting to the far end of Ship Island while lugging a cooler.
The most amazing thing was that nobody in the wine-swilling crowd of thousands appeared drunk. There were no fistfights or loud words. The only music was the occasional accordion, yet it seemed as if our lubed conversation was orchestrated.
As the sun got lower and the crowd higher, I kept waiting for the down side of such a frolic, a sick teenager, passed out geriatric or an angry boyfriend. It never came. Now I didn’t stay into the wee hours and the scene might have changed, but somehow I doubt it.
Theirs is an old and grape-fueled civilization.
Almost before I knew it, my group had reached a vineyard hilltop that looked down on the red-roofed medieval village of Freinsheim. We rested. And drank some more.
We didn’t so much walk as float home. I kept thinking wistfully of a similar production along the edge of the Mississippi Sound, but I don’t think it would translate.