Les Fun Facts Francais

by Anna

Having spent the last three and a half weeks in France, Johnny and I are beginning to feel “trés Français,” and we’ve been picking up some French fun facts and serious knowledge (or at least we like to think so) along the way. Before all of that knowledge leaks back out of our more-relaxed-than-usual brains, we thought we’d write some down and share them with you!

1. Hearing the song of the Cicadas, or “chant des Cigales,” is the first sign of summer. We heard the first sounds of the Cicadas at lunch last Friday in Eygalières. Everyone was très excité!

2. Three Cypress trees planted at an entrance to a winery or chateau means “welcome.”

3. Shutters are painted shades of blue throughout France because bees and flies hate the color. (And to think I thought it was just for looks!)

4. Grape vines thrive in rocky soil which allows for better drainage and heat absorption from the sun. The bigger the struggle, the larger the reward!

4. Geraniums are planted in window boxes to deter mosquitos. (Again, I thought this was purely decorative.)

5. In Provence and throughout France the name of the grape (ie: Chardonnay, Syrah, etc) is usually not used on the bottle because winemakers feel that the soil and landscape of the area, or the “terroir,” is what gives the wine its unique qualities and flavor. This actually makes it more difficult sometimes for French wines to sell in the U.S., because people are less likely to buy a bottle without the name of the grape identified.

6. Many of the towns were built on hilltops so that residents could see enemy troops approaching in case of invasion. (So glad they did this, because now they are so pretty to look at, and have great views!)

7. Napoleon the 1st ordered that Sycamore trees be planted along roads to towns so that soldiers could march in the shade….hence all of the beautifully tree-lined roads shaded by canopies of leaves throughout France.

8. Milk is typically sold on the aisle, not in the refrigerated section of the market (It took Johnny and I a few laps around the market to figure this out!).

9. When you order a rotisserie chicken, or “poulet rôti,” from the Boucherie, they will ask if you want it with or without juice. You want it “avec jus!”

Avec jus!

10. You thought there were only 3 steps to wine tasting? sniff, swirl and taste? No, no my friends. There are 6 steps to wine tasting (all 6 of which we practiced vehemently in the Luberon with Francois!):

1)   Tilt the glass almost horizontal and check the color.
–       red wine with a violet ring is less than 2 years old
–       red wine with a ruby red ring is 3-8 years old (the increasing years developing an orangish hue to the ruby color)
–       red wine with a brownish ring is more than 9 years old

2)   Smell the wine and identify the families (fruit, flowers, earth, animals, spices, etc).

3)   Swirl your glass and smell the wine again. More families will now be apparent.

4)   Check the legs. The more legs, the fuller and smoother the wine will be. The less legs, the drier and more crisp the wine will be. Legs are a result of the oil in the wine which comes from the seeds of the grape.  Plump, fat grapes resulting from cool weather will have big seeds and more oil in the wine. Smaller grapes with smaller seeds from hot weather will have less oil in the wine.

5)   Take a large mouthful of wine. Tilt your head forward and “slurp”, or aerate the wine in your mouth three times. Then “chew” it a couple times, so that it hits all of your tastebuds. Then swallow.

6)   Aerate your empty glass by swirling it and “doing the disco”. Then smell in the glass one last time. You will discover even more families with this final whiff.

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