Learning stuff in Sancerre

Coeur de France Language School.

La Coeur de France language school is an immersion operation. Everything is in French from the very first moment.

Jennifer and the boys are spending over three hours a day in classes, plus an additional half-hour on pronunciation. Even after two days they are all making marked progress. I think having had the boys do French lessons before is now really bearing fruit, with some focussed teaching slotting all the random stuff they know into a proper structure. Declan bought cheese today, Callum bought ham (in addition to hunting and gathering again in the morning). Declan even came up with a seven-year-old bilingual pun – “On my birthday, I’ll have to have huit-bix for breakfast.”

Vineyards in Sancerre.

Today they had pronunciation with Marianne from 8:30 to 9:00 am. Marianne and Gerard run the school which is based in a lovely old building to the West of the main square in Sancerre. After that lesson we all headed off and retraced the high-points of my walk yesterday. The high points included walking along the top of the viaduct this time. The boys delighted in teasing me as I walked right down the middle of the road, as far away from the edges with their inadequate safety rails as possible.

After lunch Jennifer and the boys headed in for their afternoon of lessons. I headed out with Gerard, and a couple of the other students, for a tour of the local vineyards. Gerard is not a local but has the fervour and comprehensive knowledge of a convert. He gave a fantastic description of how wine-making in the region works and took us through a great wine tasting.

Wine store. Oldest bottles from 1932.

The thing I found fascinating is that Sancerre is appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). That means that like Champagne and several other regions no one else can use the name.  But with that benefit comes some weighty restrictions. You must grow the grapes make the wine and sell the wine yourself. So you cannot be just a winemaker for example. You must harvest in a period decreed by the local AOC representative. Interestingly you are not allowed to irrigate. The French view is that irrigation leads to boring sameness from year to year. Part of the joy of wine is that different years have different tastes, levels of alcohol and so on.

I’ve returned home rather immersed in wine. So, if this post is incoherent, blame the local educational approach.

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