Eagle (c) Kristin Espinasse

When vines talk... the "Eagle" (left) is being told by the "Shusher" (right, finger on "mouth") to be quiet, "It's not the end of winter yet... nature is still sleepy." And you, do you believe that vines are more than wood stalks? The characters in today's story do... and they make wine according to the moon!

le caissier (kay-syeh)

    : cashier, teller

feminine: la caissière (kay-syehr)


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

When your husband asks whether you would like to volunteer for Friday night's professionals-only dégustation, smile and reply "tout ce que tu veux, cheri"... never mind that you aren't active in the local wine scene, that you won't recognize names or faces, that this dernier détail could lead to embarrassment.

Capture plein écran 07032011 083603 Request, quand même, not to be in charge of the caisse.

Arrive at the mind-blowing Domaine Viret. Ascend the massive stone stairs to the mind-blowing cave. You have never seen anything like it! If this is a biodynamic's cellar, then the Egyptian-inspired reaching-towards-the-galaxy "wine cathedral" must be a tribute to la Voie lactée!

Be amazed by the floor-to-sky vats, the ancient amphorae, and the 20 walkin'-to-their-own-(and-to nature's)-beat winemakers who are busy setting up shop.

Search for the woman who has been helping your husband with PR... Check her out: assess any threat as she strides up and listens to your husband's introduction: "Voici ma femme".  

Wonder whether to kiss or to shake. Notice how the other woman is studying you: were you what she expected? Older? Younger? Bolder? Weaker? Chopped liver?

Study Other Woman, who is wearing that secret magic glittery powder that all beautiful French women wear. Regret the pharmacy "flour" that now feels like dough on your own face. Wish that you'd worn a skirt, as she has done, and black-heeled boots, as she has done... and earrings and a pretty barrette in your thick brown hair! 

Feel like chopped liver for two-seconds flat, in time to pull the full length of body skyward. Nod like a princess when you feel like une grenouille.

Spend next half-hour worrying whether Other Woman likes you or not, sees you as competent or not, would rather you be here or not....

Then get over yourself! After all, you are here to help!

(From this point on refer to Other Woman as "Colleague". Much better. Plus, hope that if she's reading she's not offended by your carefree reporting...)

Follow Other Woman, or "Colleague"... over to cellar entrance, where a small table is set up. Notice cagnotte. Cagnotte!!! Be eternally grateful when Colleague says she'll handle the money.

Nod head enthusiastically when given the easy-peasy-French-cheesy task of distributing the wine glasses. One per paying customer. You can handle that.   

Listen to lowdown: five euros for guests who've reserved (whose names are inscribed on The List); ten euros for those who have not reserved. Wonder why you are listening to The Lowdown, after all, you are only in charge of easy-cheesy glasses-distribution... n'est-ce pas???

Watch Colleague in action: "Sorry, sir, but you have not reserved. That will be ten euros."
Observe as Colleague uses her charm to save a sale "but it is only ten euros for the tasting and the dinner! C'est quand même pas mal, non?!"

Back up Colleague, chirping "Quelle bonne affaire!" ("Affaire"? Attention to word choice, which comes back to haunt you!)

Watch Colleague as customer hands over a 20-euro note. "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" "Do you have anything smaller, Sir?"

Be impressed when Colleague gets customer to hand over two fives. Smart woman. Realize we'll need all the fivers/change we can get.

Stare, stunned, when Colleague leaves you to man the stand, with a breezy "I'm off to try some wine..." Regret that you are not a wine-trier, then quickly get over it...

Jump into action!: greet customers, request fives/change, defend the ten-euros entrance fee to those concerned...

Watch, amazed, as the line piles up, with everyone suddenly being related to the winemakers. "Sorry, yes, perhaps, but the entrance fee is still ten euros!... or five, depending!).

Feel mortified when you attempt to charge the owner's wife the 10-euros fee....

Swear you will never again assume that a cashier has shortchanged you... when three times in the evening you accidentally cheat a customer! (Listen like a thug to the reprimand and the tsk-tsk of "Madame, je vous ai donné un billet de vingt!") 

Wonder where in the Milky Way did your Colleague stray? On second thought, be glad for the chance to man the stand. You've learned a lot: for one thing, you are not the pushover you thought you were. Just look at how you plucked up those line-cutters who tried to steal behind you in time to swipe a glass and sneak into the tasting room! Boy, are their butts going to be sore!!!

Learn to decipher journalists (remember what Colleague taught: journalists are not used to paying. Let them by -- just remind them about a write up... hoping one of them will eventually write an article...

Be the One of Them to eventually write the damned article.


Le Coin Commentaires
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French Vocabulary - Click one of the following links to listen to this vocabulary list: MP3 file or Wav file

-> la dégustation = tasting

-> le dernier détail = last detail

-> quand même = even so, nevertheless, all the same, really

-> la caisse (money context) = the till, cash register

-> la Voie lactée = the Milky way

-> une barrette = a hair clip

-> la grenouille = frog

-> la cagnotte = the kitty (in a different context -> the jackpot)

-> une bonne affaire = a real bargain!

-> de la monnaie = some change

-> un billet (money context) = a bank note

-> un billet de vingt = a twenty Euro note

-> ..... "n'est-ce pas"? .... isn't it so?
used at the end of a sentence as an expression of affirmation after a statement - equivalent of 'tag question' in English.

-> "Tout ce que tu veux, chéri"... = 'whatever you want, darling'...

-> "C'est quand même pas mal, non?!" = It's not bad really, is it?!

-> "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" = 'Do you have anything smaller, Sir?'

Chief Grape.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety