When you first get to France, you’ll be struck by the closed off nature of the French, a characteristic reflected even in the architecture of the country—very high fences through which you cannot take a glimpse, a million keys, cards and codes to get into an apartment and blinds at every window that shut off as soon as dusk comes. However, this part of the French character completely vanishes when they have imbibed a little bit too much alcohol.
I had the privilege to be caught in a huge mass of chatty, very nice and open-minded intoxicated French citizens last weekend at the Percée du vin jaune, a yellow wine festival.
First of all, “What the hell is yellow wine?” you might be wondering. “I’ve heard of red wine, white wine and even rosé wine, but yellow wine?” Or at least that was my reaction the first time I heard about this type of wine. Well, since then I learned that, as always, there is something else between black and white (or, in this context, red, white and rosé), and that “something else” is yellow wine (you can also find something called “straw wine”—vin de paille—in France, but that’s a totally different story).
Yellow wine is a special type of white wine characteristic to the Jura Mountains region that has a very sweet taste. It takes between six and eight years to make it, so you can imagine it’s quite expensive. I tried it once in my first couple of weeks of my study abroad and really liked it, which is why I thought a weekend-long wine-tasting festival dedicated to it was an extremely good idea.
The event is held every year in small towns in the region where viticulture plays an essential role. In this year’s host town there were about 80 cellars. The locals were estimating around 30,000 visitors for each of the two days of the percée. With the entrance ticket you received a glass and ten coupons for different types of alcohols: four for yellow wine, one for macvin du Jura (sort of like Sherry) and five for red or “normal” white wines.
I was about to go there alone, since nobody else from Knox seemed interested. On the train platform I met a Romanian friend who was going there with some French guys I knew as well, so I joined their group. The more the merrier, especially when you are talking about a festival dedicated to an alcoholic beverage. It was also useful to have some “experts” with me. My French acquaintances had taken part in this type of event before and knew tricks, such as exchanging two coupons for regular white/red wine for one for yellow wine or vin de paille.
We got to the center of the town at about 2 p.m. (which in France is 14:00) on Sunday afternoon. The guys who sold us the tickets were more than happy; there was a mountain of empty wine boxes at the entrance, and there were pieces of broken bottles and glasses everywhere. Most of the people were not tipsy. Not yet, that is. After a few hours in and out of the caveaux (cellars), everyone became chatty, joyful and kind. All of a sudden everybody loved Romanians when, under normal circumstances, most of the people from this country discriminate against them. Almost everyone seemed extremely interested in us, smiling and talking continuously, not caring if we understood what they were saying or not.
This was a quite unique, really enjoyable experience. I’m only sad that everything came back to normal the following day. How amazing it would be if “normal” behavior was like that of the participants at this festival?