The nights are drawing in and there is a definite chill in the air. I’m already missing those long summer evenings and the certainty of hot, sunny days. But most of our French friends love this time of year. Why? One of the reasons is wine.

September is the season of La Vendange, the wine harvest. On a recent visit to a vineyard or domaine, the proprietor explained the process of harvesting the grapes and beginning to create wine. Rosé, highly priced in Provence, is particularly delicate. It needs to remain as cool as possible for the best flavour. So for rosé, most of the work is done at night, often by machine to expedite the process. The grapes are picked, cleaned, crushed and put into large vats in one night.

It’s also the time of year when supermarkets hold their “foires à vins” or wine fairs.

Leaflets arrive in the mailbox advertising tastings and special offers.

We see our neighbours unloading the car: three trips to unload several cases of wine to go in the cave.

Trevor lingers over the selections. Valerie has no idea about buying wine.

But never fear, once again, modern technology comes to the rescue.

At Carrefour, a well-known supermarket chain, you can summon the help of Max le sommelier. Un sommelier in French is one of those often snooty wine waiters that you find in expensive restaurants. Max is not exactly that. He’s smartly turned out and sports an engaging smile, but he’s a robot.

Type in a food, and he makes recommendations for a wine to accompany the dish. You can select by region, colour, price, or just let Max make a free choice. Makes shopping a bit more fun!

Another aspect of shopping at this store which we appreciate is self scanning. This is not just a rapid self checkout. It is a huge timesaver, as you only handle the goods twice, once when you pull them off the shelves, and afterwards when you load your car. Here’s how it works.

On entering the store, you scan your fidelity card and pick up a hand scanner, called une scannette. Then as you shop, you scan each item as you put it into the shopping cart. The scannette tracks the number of items as well as a running total. Change your mind? No problem, you can remove an item from your total and return it to the shelf. At the checkout, you simply scan the scanner and pay.
Of course, there are random checks. For example, one day we were selected for a control and the machine told the employee to select three items at random from our cart to see if we had registered them.

It’s still much quicker than emptying all the items to be scanned by a cashier, and then repacked by the customer.

Despite all these modern conveniences, shopping is still a chore. So after arriving home and unloading the wine, we lug the boxes into our cave in the basement of the apartment building. That should keep us going for a few weeks.

Now, to get over all the effort, of course, a glass of wine. And to be politically correct, any mention of alcohol on TV these days is accompanied by the warning ” à consommer avec modération.” to which the animateur of our favorite quiz show always adds ” …. et avec délectation.”

Cheers, Bottoms up, Sláinte or Santé to you all.


© 2012 Trevor and Valerie White

One thought on “La saison du vin

  1. I can see that you are truly enjoying life in France.I like the “scannette”. So Carrefour basically knows everything about you now…Does Max take you grocery shopping to your car? Naaan, you can’t bit Publix!Allez! A la tienne Etienne! Cul sec… (c’est une expression!) Marion

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