Johnny Morris: The Weinfest

....if the Drosselgasse is a dangerous place in which to dawdle, it is but a kindergarten compared to a weinfest. A weinfest, or a wine festival, sets out to be a pleasant festivity in praise and honour of the grape, and wine festivals are held in the autumn in many of the little towns along the grape-growing parts of the Rhine.

Now the grape is a very funny fruit. A very funny fruit indeed. A beautiful symbol of abundance, I grant you, but a tricky little devil. The growing of him is tricky. He needs the right amount of sun, the right amount of rain; he has to be sprayed to keep him free of the fungus. He's picked, and trodden, and bottled, and watched, and turned, and tasted , and tested, to produce a drink so subtle, so refreshing, so satisfying... a drink that so pleasantly draws you back a few paces from the cliff edge of harsh reality. A wonderful fruit is the grape.. ..if he's treated properly. For the grape must, above all things, be appreciated . It's got to be appreciated.

The moment you cease to appreciate the grape and treat him like any old glass of tipple, he will let loose a vengeance on one and all that has to be seen to be believed. And if you don't believe me, visit a wine festival on the Rhine one wet September day, and get a load of the havoc the wine will work on those who lose their appreciation.

To start with, a wine festival is a very pretty affair. They decorate the village with dark green foliage, and flowers, and flags. They put up marquees, and trestle tables with tablecloths. They hang streamers from pillar to post. They drag out the sausages and sauerkraut. They put on the Sunday best, and summon the German band, and trundle out the barrels and the bottles. It's all good, clean fun to start with, I imagine, but we didn't get there at the start.

We got there at about half-past three in the afternoon, just as it was beginning to drizzle. We parked the car outside the village and walked up towards the village square. And then this life-size rag doll came hurtling down the road towards us, except that it wasn't a rag doll; it was a very floppy man.

When he passed us, every bit of control has left him. He was just like - a rag doll. He had started off on his way, and had developed a nasty stagger in all directions, and now, desperately trying to correct this terrible stagger he was gaining momentum and practically cartwheeling downhill, legs and arms flying. A rag doll being shaken by a terrier.

He came to a thundering stop when he hit a brick wall, trying to avoid a group of men coming up the hill. They picked him up, and dusted him down, and, hanging on to them, he came back with them up the hill to join the wine festival once again. He was still good for a couple more bottles, he thought. But I don't think he made it, for we saw him, half an hour later, out for the count near the bandstand.

It's quite astonishing the effect wine has on body control. I've never seen it demonstrated as actively as at this wine festival. People falling about all over the place.

Not everybody, of course, for it's rather like the Drosselgasse ; there are those that over-indulge, and there are those that don't. Those that don't over-indulge stand about, and chat in the rain, underneath umbrellas. The sound of wine glasses smashing and trestle tables collapsing moves them not...

That young man has collapsed onto a trestle table. The road swills with wine and broken glass. And ... we'd talked to him just half an hour ago. He spoke a little English; wanted a little practice. He was all right then, but the wine poleaxed him, wallop...like that .....they lay him to rest on the town hall steps, and the rain drips and drips, and the railway trains pound up and down the railway lines, beside the Rhine... .

Still, I will say this, for a good weinfest; if you're troubled by noises in the night, and can't sleep, and you have no sleeping pills, put in a short burst at a weinfest, just before bedtime. But only a short burst.

transcribed from the 1983 recording by
Nigel Deacon (2006) / Diversity website

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