Monday, October 12, 2009

Celebrating Wine (day 2)

Our antique car disaster was not enough to keep us from day two of the biggest party of the year - in Chusclan. Again, our landlords insisted that we arrive in town early to see all the dancing and singing and Provencal merry-making. To our surprise, Chusclan was even busier than the day before. And even more people were wearing their old-time costumes. We had elected to go as typical tourists... in case we were stranded somewhere again.

Our first stop was at the accueil (welcome) table to buy our wine tasting glasses. For just 3.50€ we could enjoy unlimited degustation (tasting). The best, and classiest, part of the tradition is that the glasses are mounted on strings so you can wear it around your neck all day. That way you never lose any time between rounds searching for your glass.

Madame Bérard again showed us around town, making a point of directing us to the very best wine tasting stands. I think we visited the Champaign stand three times. In all there were about a half dozen different wine cooperatives represented around town. Of course we had to try them all. Now with three months of wine tasting experience, we really felt like pros swirling, slurping and making funny faces. As expected, the local wine was the best - I mean, why would you invite someone with better goods to your wine party?

All day, local residents played the part of peasants from the 1800s. I was most impressed by the guys shoeing the horses. I was a little surprised that the horses were so accommodating, allowing the smith to manhandle is massive hooves. Nearby, a faux-nun pretended to scold school children, women washed the same white linens for hours and an accordion player flipped through this collection of classic tunes.

Meanwhile a drum and whistle band was supplying the music for a troupe of dancers. Professional might have been too strong a word to describe both groups, but they certainly held the tourists' attention. The most impressive dance was performed around a pole with colored streamers flowing from the top. Each dancer grabbed a streamer and followed joined in dancing around the pole. The choreographed movements resulted in a colorful braiding - pole dancing a la 1830.

Braiding Pole Dancers

Around 3:00 the mayor announced the grape harvest. The costumed residents look their places in a parade of donkeys and dancers and processed out of town and to the nearest vineyard. The mob of tourists followed. Reaching the end of the field, the mob disbursed among the vines and began collecting grapes. Large wooden barrels were filled and mounted on the mules. The procession then returned to town to celebrate the pressing of the grapes.

Unfortunately, this local celebration did not include an grape stomping. However, the freshly squeezed grape juice was collected in a large cask and served to the brave. It actually tasted pretty good - very sweet, not much different than your highly processed supermarket variety.

See more photos of the Chusclan Vendanges de L'Histoire on my Flickr page.

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