Some people asked what I’m doing while Mark is buried in chateau visits, vineyard soil pit analysis, and research papers. So here you go, a general update from the other half.
I decided early on tackling the French language, at least having the ability to conduct daily activities was tops. I attended classes three mornings a week with a rotating cast of characters. Two were with me from the start; Robert, a retired doctor from Florida who moved to Bordeaux with his soon to be ex-French wife, and Buse, a Turk with two small boys and a successfully self-employed husband and who prefer France to the current political environment in their country. I remain friends with both.
Class was rewarding, funny, and frustrating at times. The most difficult part once winter arrived was sitting in an old, minimally insulated building with negligible heat. While I can handle the cold and snow, it’s a wet cold here!
I lunch with a French business woman, Sylvie, every two or three weeks. She wants to improve her working English and I need conversation opportunities. We go back and forth between the languages, ask clarifying questions, and have an enjoyable time. At a lunch before Christmas, she spontaneously invited me to her Professional Business Woman’s Group for a holiday gathering that night. I jumped at the opportunity and thoroughly enjoyed an all-French evening (except for a few English words here and there). I met a woman who started and makes her own artisanal jam. (She utilizes fruit that goes into supermarket compost bins, working with local government to get a large amount for free, and then provides a portion to local food shelters. Very cool set up!)
In addition to the above, handling other matters from food shopping, cooking, and being the unpaid laundress, to financial items occupy my time. The downside of food shopping is I can spend hours traversing neighborhoods, popping my head into every other establishment. The upside, Je peux pratiquer mon française.
This was my schedule before the holidays.
As Mark shared tidbits of trips to Chateaux Beycheville, Carbonnieux, Troplong Mondat, the desire to wet my palate turned into a rolling boil. (I chuckle now remembering arm twisting a certain person to attend a wine class with me at The Chicago Wine School 21 years ago.)
Now pursuing studies through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust out of the UK, I passed Level 2 with distinction and just “wrote” the Level 3 exam. This exam was multiple choice with about ten short answer questions, and a blind tasting of two wines. It takes eight to ten weeks to get test results. I admit to not studying the chapter on Greek wine thus knowing the red grape variety in Naoussa was a mystery. Is it Agiorgitiko, Savatiano, Assyrtiko, or Xinomavro? (Guess then scroll to the bottom for the answer*.)
The next and highest level is the Diploma which requires a great deal of tasting and a recommended 600 hours of studying. While it’s on my radar, I’m pursuing other avenues to expand the breadth and width of my knowledge, and that will help prepare me to take the Diploma test. All hailing frequencies are open.
Unfortunately rigorous study of French took a back seat; when wanting a break from hard-core wine studies, the last thing on my mind was review of French verb conjugations or passé composé. No, endorphins and a bicycle won that battle!
Stop back for updates on wine related study. As I’m fond of stainless steel fermented wines, I might dive into a tank and share micro details on various topics.
*Naoussa at roughly 1,300 feet (400 meters) is a cooler area for the red grape variety Xinomavro. High in both tannins and acid and known for its ability to age, Xinomavro is often compared to the Italian varietal, Nebbiolo.