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I find that subscribing to Kristin Espinasse's "French Word-A-Day" blog is an entertaining way to increase my French vocabulary. Even if the word of the day is one I already know, there is almost always something of interest in a day's blog entry (the blog is actually updated three times a week, not daily). In addition, I always enjoy Kristin's stories about her life as an American transplanted to France, now with a French husband and two French children (whose French is sometimes better than hers).
Planning a trip to western Provence in September, 2009, I mentioned to Kristin in an e-mail message that we'd be in her vicinity. She invited us to drop by to say hello, and once in France, I telephoned Jean-Marc from Arles to set up a date and time. I was uncertain if a visit would really be possible, because Jean-Marc was in the middle of le vendange, the grape harvest. He had brought in the grapes for his rosť a few weeks earlier, but was now in the middle of harvesting grapes for his award-winning red (Domaine Rouge-Bleu "Mistral"). But they nevertheless made time for us to drop by. They treated us to some of their excellent wine, along with some local olives. Here's Margie, on the right, chatting with Kristin, on their patio, in front of a field of vines:
Jean-Marc offered us three of his wines to taste, although after a full day of back-breaking work harvesting grapes, he himself was drinking a beer. He has a substantial number of outlets for his wines in the US and in Europe, but I talked with him about his difficulties finding a good Massachusetts importer.
Then we watched Jean-Marc (back to the camera), his brother Jacques (left), and their other assistants begin to prepare the machinery to transfer the day's harvest of grapes into a porous concrete fermentation tank.
The picture below shows "la remorque", full of grapes, being set up for unloading ("remorque" means "trailer"). The grapes (for this particular red, stems and all) are forced up the red hose seen circling over Jean-Marc's head by a large tractor-driven screw at the bottom of the remorque. This also crushes the grapes (sorry - you don't get to stomp them with your feet). Jean-Marc's brother Jacques is handling the tractor. Margie watches from a safe distance, as Kristin steadies the ladder for a helper who is wielding a shovel to be sure the grapes feed smoothly and completely into the auger.
Meanwhile, the Espinasse dog, Braise, wandered the grounds, seemingly oblivious to the fact that her puppies looked upon her as an ambulatory milk bar:
We were delighted that Jean-Marc and Kristin were willing to have us drop by at this very busy time.
Trip report: Languedoc, Gorges du Tarn, Arles.
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This page was created September 29, 2009