It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, must be in need of more wine. In a pinch, a half-decent fortune will do. Or in times of great need any spare change in the wallet will suffice. You know, whatever is available can always be converted, magically, into a bottle of ambrosia. With the change in seasons – a whopping 22°C (or 72°f) this weekend – I’ve been on the hunt for lighter reds and more whites. Fortunately both temperature and opportunity conspire fortuitously to bring Alsace to the Médoc, in the form of a visit by Becker wines – the same that seem to keep cropping up in my blog and on my wine shelf – and otherwise an outdoorsy weekend in the sun.

Scenes around Bordeaux: my morning run to the river; sheep safely graze on campus, an old Romanesque church in Moulis-en-Médoc glistens in the sun. The Garonne River mirrors the lights from Place de la Bourse. And is that a giant sundial or the helical obelisk in Place de la Victoire? What time is it...? Time for a drink!

Scenes around Bordeaux: my morning run to the river; sheep may safely graze on campus, an old Romanesque church in Moulis-en-Médoc glistens in the sun. The Garonne River mirrors the lights from Place de la Bourse. And is that a giant sundial or the helical obelisk in Place de la Victoire – what time is it, you ask…? Time for a drink!

It's not that complicated, guys.

wine is not that complicated.

There are more wine marketing classes this week, during which we spend a lot of time talking about brand wines vs. terroir wines, and how to identify them. Very simply, many old world wines are terroir wines – they are made to represent a specific taste that you expect (ie. certain types of grape, with certain types of soil, like Chablis: unoaked Chardonnay on chalky soils) from the region. The weather (and therefore the vintage) has a huge impact on the quality of the wine. Many new world wines are brand wines – the diversity of grape and style of winemaking is intended to be unique and less dependent on the impact of vintage, rather a style – quality or personality, even – that is more consistent each year.

Taking a break from class to enjoy sumo wrestling, a school band and a lawn DJ in the sun (thanks Lipton!)

Good day sunshine! Taking a break from class to enjoy sumo wrestling, a school band and a lawn DJ (thanks Lipton!)

Regardless of whether the wine is more brand-driven or terroir-driven, everyone is impacted by vigour (energy of the vines to grow a lot) and mineral (nutrition) content in the soils. We spend some quality time in the classroom going over the basics. These are important analytical tools we’ll be able to use when we’re doing our stages. Recognizing high/low vigour in the vines, the symptoms of mineral deficiencies and water content will allow us to correct (where possible) and predict what the quality of the grapes will be like at harvest.

Classes on mineral deficiencies, vineyard operations and water-soil interactions.

Classes on mineral deficiencies, the calendar of vineyard operations and water-soil interactions. You might think the material is a little dry, but if you look closely, the wetting curve clearly shows otherwise. Obviously.

I haven’t seen my parrain this month, but have been attending some of the other Bordeaux Alumni events. To refresh your memory, there are about 60-something international students paired up with local chefs d’entreprise, or business leaders (cooking skills unknown), to share cross-cultural knowledge about Bordeaux and our home countries. Beyond this parrainage there are other events for the students to get together and learn more about the culture and industry in Bordeaux. I am able to attend this month’s event at Sud Ouest, the regional newspaper of the south west of France, where the experts take us through what makes a news story important, and share their perspectives on some of today’s issues.

Our journey to the Sud Ouest: can you find me? A panel from the newspaper explaining what makes the news on the domestic and international fronts. A petite apero afterwards.

Got myself in the pape: can you find me? A panel of modern day newsies explaining what makes the news on the domestic and international fronts. Seizing the day with a petite apéro afterwards.

Aaaand back to the classroom – except this time the classroom is outside. Though we’re only half way through the cost audit, it’s already time to start our two-month technical audit. This represents an opportunity to take a magical mystery tour to Domaine Andron in the Haut-Médoc, and examine their vineyard and winemaking decisions to see if we can offer suggestions on improvements. It’s a beautiful day to be among the vines – the buds are just starting to burst, and we spend the afternoon measuring cane thickness, identifying soil components and measuring canopy sizes for future analysis.

View of the vines and the cellar entrance from Domaine Andron. Inside, our debrief starts among the big oak fermenting tanks, and wraps up by the big oak aging barrels. Outside, bud burst, a brand new Merlot plant, and a field of dreams.

View of the vines and the cellar entrance from Domaine Andron. Inside, our debrief starts among the big oak fermenting tanks, and wraps up by the big oak aging barrels. Outside: bud burst, a brand new Merlot plant, and grape fields forever

Finally, it’s Easter weekend. We’ve learned about French Easter traditions in French class – many are similar, but some are new for me. The main dinner ingredient is lamb, rather than ham, and there’s no Easter Bunny.

The sun starts to go down leading up to Easter. Following the centuries-old tradition of welcoming the light back in time for Easter Sunday, the bells begin to ring and… bring the chocolates to French children.

Wait – there’s NO Easter Bunny?! Who brings the chocolate, you ask? Good question – the church bells, silent during Holy Week, begin to ring on Saturday night after the Vigil. The version that children hear goes thus: the bells fly out of their steeples to go to Rome (explaining their silence), and return on Easter morning bringing chocolate eggs. The chocolates drop out of the bells as they fly over the land, which is why it is necessary to look for them in the garden. Makes perfect sense, non?

Let's be honest; it's all about the goodies! Cannelle-stuffed eggs, chocolate hens and a cruel reminder from my brother of what I'm missing from home - my mom's famous orange bread!

All you need is l’oeuf – Cannelle-stuffed eggs, chocolate hens and a cruel reminder from my brother of what I’m missing from home. My mom’s famous orange bread doubles as currency in our house (Household economics: I’m currently wine-rich but orange-bread-poor.) 🙁

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