by Paullette Gaudet

MardiGras_BlogSizeMardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday, but is actually the blanket term for a weeks-long Carnival celebration that traditionally begins on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day). Carnival season is a slow build-up of pleasurable excess ending at the ascetic deadline of Ash Wednesday, when Catholics must give up their chosen vices for the forty days of Lent. Weekly parades named after a pantheon of Greek and Roman gods mark the Carnival season, and Friday night family parties feature King Cakes, braided rings of dough decorated with purple, green and yellow sugar that contain a plastic baby toy inside; whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy the cake for next week’s party.

The most elaborate Carnival parades occur the weekend before Mardi Gras Day, and that Sunday night’s Bacchus parade is the splashiest of them all—featuring the longest, most spectacularly-lit floats and the most extravagant “throws” (beads/toys). A celebrity “Bacchus” is chosen each year to represent the God of Wine, and those revelers weary of downing Hurricane cocktails at weekend’s end can raise a glass of wine to their chosen deity. Pinot Noir and Shiraz are ideal low-tannin reds to hoist for Mardi Gras: bright and drinkable, they pair well with the spicy Cajun and Creole dishes that usually accompany this weekend. Sauvignon Blanc is a great white wine option to balance the kick of spicy dishes, and Sparkling Wine is a festive and complementary choice for that second (or third!) slice of King Cake. Laissez les bon temps rouler!