actually, any colin firth movie will do around the holidays

actually, any colin firth movie will do around the holidays

It’s wildly distracting to be home and in the throes of holiday festivities in the Toronto tropics (a surprisingly balmy 16°C today) while trying to write about what happened during the last week of school. Stuff… happened…? I think I have notes. And I vaguely remember a take home exam that ate up most of the week. That feels like a long time ago. As I catch up on my Canadian holiday traditions – watching Love Actually (my all-time favourite Christmas movie. Say what you like about it, but I like it very much, just as it is) with university friends in advance of our annual reunion in Guelph, prepping gifts and menus for the three days of family Christmas, and generally catching up with old friends and extended family as I’m not planning to visit again for the next two years.

proper application of the 5 forces model.

Proper application of the 5 forces model.

The final week of class is relatively light in comparison, as we have several assignments to work on, including our take home exam for the module on the Fundamentals of Viticulture and Enology.  We have several visitors this week – the first is a professor from Sonoma State University, teaching wine business strategy.  He has written several case studies, two of which we review in class in the context of applying basic business strategic analysis tools (ie. Porter’s 5 Forces Model) to real life wine businesses.

This is a little closer to my MBA experience, and a departure from our normal classroom routines – we have the case studies in advance, but use the class time to analyse the examples and present our solutions.  It feels a little slap-dash, especially after the exercises where we combed through scientific articles, but good practice in thinking on our feet and building group consensus quickly.

some food (mostly drink) for thought from Pernod Ricard

some food (mostly drink) for thought from Pernod Ricard

The next visitor to the class is from Pernod-Ricard’s R&D department here in France. He spends the first portion of the class introducing us to the company’s structure and mission. This is really interesting because, thus far, we’ve spent most of our time discussing and analysing single wine estates, not larger conglomerates that manage multiple wine estates. The majority of the presentation feels Unilever-esque, even though the products are wildly different. I find the structure fascinating: the R&D organization is divided into product, packaging and consumer interaction. The last is a new facet for me, and underscores how quickly our habits are evolving in the digital age. I see some of it as my own habits change, particularly as I blog more. My room-mates are also teaching me more about social media – we’re only 15 years apart, but how we use Facebook and Twitter are already quite different.

some things about schol never change

some things about school never change

The take home exam dominates everyone’s conversation for the final week. We’ve had two weeks to work on it, and discuss among ourselves. There are a few thought experiments tucked in the exam which show off how differently we think – the answers for which phenological step of grape development is most important vary drastically within our class, but we are mostly on the same page for the other answers.

There are two chapters of economics self-study to submit plus the take-home exam, and then a tasting or two to attend, so the final week of school is quite busy. Our minds are very much on the holidays ahead, but there are one or two last tasks for me to complete before I can properly wrap up 2015 in Bordeaux.

My parrain and I have finally managed to arrange a meeting, so it’s off to Villenave d’Ornon, a suburb of Bordeaux to meet the CEO of Zhendre, a company specializing in the design of containerized solutions in extreme temperature conditions. I know that sounds like gobbledygook, but basically he makes mobile units for storage, workspaces and air conditioning for extreme hot and cold – think of uses in the military, humanitarian aid, etc.

For someone who deals with many of the world’s armies, M. Zhendre is very pleasant, explaining how his family got into this business, what he does here and as VP of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, and how he can help connect me with the wine industry in Bordeaux. After a tour of the facilities and a quick chat about our expectations for this binôme (partnership), we make plans to meet again in the new year, and I’m off home. (Sorry for not taking any photos; see above comment about how this guy works with many of the world’s armies; it didn’t seem like the right time. Maybe when we get to know each other better.)

The last task I must complete before I leave Bordeaux is a photo project for my little niece and nephew. This year on Christmas Eve they will be tracking Santa and will still be awake when he touches down in France. My sister-in-law and I have convinced them that my toys (key participants in our Skype conversations) are staying in Bordeaux and will send photo updates in realtime while they also wait for Père Noël. Which of course means that I’m lying through my teeth to champion Santa to the kids; I’m ok with this though. The teaser photos seem to have gone over well, and I’m curious to see what they have to say about it when we convene for Christmas!

someone is busy looking out for Santa while I'm in Toronto

Someone’s got to wait for Père Noël in Bordeaux while I’m away in Toronto (according to the little ones… shhh don’t tell!)

There’s a big wine tasting event the day before I fly out. Tastings don’t look like this back in Toronto: the samples are plentiful (and free with entry), and it only takes a few hours (I’m even spitting the entire time, I swear!) before I’m satiated/saturated (?) and I’m off to finish shopping for gifts and packing my bags for the return home.

It's a fine morning for a tasting at Place de la Bourse; the rooms are filled, and outside there's skating despite the balmy weather.

It’s a fine morning for a tasting at Place de la Bourse; the rooms are filled, and outside there’s skating at the Hôtel de Ville in spite of the balmy weather.

And that’s a wrap on school for the year! Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) to you and yours, and I’ll see you again in the New Year.

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