France! The home of wine tasting, and quite possibly one of the only countries that offers wine tasting as an actual course option for a study abroad semester. I’m sure you can imagine the speed at which I added that class to my schedule. Did it seem a little ridiculous to spend three hours of my Friday getting graded for my ability to identify certain wine aromas and pair it with certain foods? Yes. But when in France, and when it’s offered, do as the French do and taste some wine.
*I would like to clarify that I did not take this class as an excuse to get drunk on wine at 9am every Friday (we spit the wine back into cups). My main goal was to come back to the U.S. with enough knowledge of wine to be an absolute annoyance to all of my friends and family.*
The class is a three hour course from 9am – 12pm every Friday morning, in which the first hour and a half consists of a slideshow on the chosen wines for that day and the second hour and a half consists of the tasting and food pairing. During the second half of class we are presented with four types of wine from the types that we discussed during the lecture. We are offered an array of food to taste as well that is meant to pair with the wines that day. For example, on the day we tasted Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay we also had fish, chèvre, and asparagus. While on the day we tasted Pinot Noir we ate mushrooms and duck.
Aside from the in-class wine tastings, our class got the chance to tour a local vineyard in Provence. Named Château des Trois Sautets, or, “Castle of the Three Goats,” this vineyard is a very new vineyard, opened in 2020 by three brothers. They welcomed us with open arms, giving us a tour of their vineyard, winemaking rooms, and goat farm. We got to see first hand how the grapes are separated, crushed, and sorted, as well as the vinification tanks in which they ferment, before being led to a beautiful stone patio overlooking the mountain side of Provence.
The rest of our time at the vineyard consisted of us trying the three types of wine they grew. They offered us one white, one rosé, and one red, each consisting of a blend of different grape types. To top it off we were served three types of fresh goat cheeses to pair with the wines, freshly delivered from the goat farm just yards away. After a long, arduous day of wine tasting we walked down the hill back to our bus and were shuttled back to our home city of Aix.
Needless to say, I feel incredibly lucky to spend my Fridays getting trained in the art of wine. You can’t complain about schoolwork when the schoolwork consists of traveling to vineyards in the South of France, although it does slightly make me dread the transition back to the American education system. Despite the fact that I may not be able to continue my career as a sommelier when I return to the U.S., I will at least come back with the ability to pick the perfect bottle of wine to go with any meal (and successfully either impress or annoy whoever’s in my company).