You could say that these sécateurs are the liaison between grapes and wine, couldn't you? For how could one exist without the other--how could wine be born without vines first being torn? It is with a snip or a clippety clip that one then becomes the other. In cutting the umbilical cord, or stem, transition begins.

So then transition, or liaison, this is our word of the day. First, a note from our sponsor. (To sponsor an edition of French Word-A-Day, contact me).

liaison (lee-ay-zohn) noun, feminine
    : union of two elements
    : connecting of two notes (music)
    : connection, link between two places*
    : love affair

* Quand je l'ai appelé, la liaison était mauvaise.

Audio File and Example sentence: listen to the French words, above Download Wav or Download MP3.  (More on the French word "liaison" at the excellent L'

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

I should tell you about how today's word was chosen. It began when Jacqui, one of our volunteer grape pickers, offered me a story about her harvesting experience, giving me permission to post it. I asked if she could summarize her story in one word (a word that I might match with a French "word of the day").

"Transitions," Jacqui offered.
"That won't work," I pointed out, regretfully. "Transitions is the same word in French. I illustrated my point with a sincere attempt to pronounce the French version of the word:  "TRAHn ZEE sheON."

Ah, yes, Jacqui sympathized. We now had a dilemma.

Enter "liaison," a synonym for "transition". Now to make the word fit! For when we think of "liaison" we think of dangerous things... like love.

It is Jacqui's love for France and all things French that has her returning to Provence at every chance.... even if "chance," on this occasion, meant the crippling prospect of grape-picking. (Jacqui suffered a knee injury after a week of non-stop picking...). Though, from the "sound" of her words in the following missive, one senses that Jacqui has overlooked the pain, and in pain's stead, found poetry. Read on... 

by Jacqui McCargar

A Provençal vineyard in the pre-dawn is a quiet, still place. The sun begins its ascent and shows its fiery red face as it peeks from behind Mont Ventoux to the east. The vines begin to take shape out of the dimness and the birds start to sing.

As the sun rises higher and the air warms, the slight mist that hangs above the vines disappears. In the distance cars coming down the drive make crunching noises on the gravel surface. Our picking crew has arrived to start another day. We get organized with our pails and sécateurs,* sunscreen is applied and hats are donned in anticipation of the hot Provençal sun.


We will harvest trellised and goblet trained vines. The trellised vines are much easier to harvest because the vines are trained on wires and most of the grapes hang down and are accessible.

The goblet style are normally much older vines and are very low to the ground which necessitates bending, squatting, kneeling and, sometimes, crawling on the rock strewn ground to find the grapes Mother Nature has so successfully hidden from the marauding birds that would feast on them.

We get our row assignments and march off with our empty pails and our shears...


For a while clip clip clip and the sound of grapes hitting the bottom of the pail is all that is heard. French and English banter, occasional bursts of laughter as we make our way down the rows of vines. Our pails fill and we empty them into a case or a bin that is pulled by the tractor.


Lunchtime eventually comes around and we either head to the farmhouse to eat at the big outside table or picnic sur place* in the vines.

Baguettes and cheese, charcuterie* and ailloli,* cold mixed Provençal veggies, pizza, wine and beer... on and on it goes.

After our food coma subsides, we head back to the vines and again clip clip clip into the rhythm clip clip clip -- ouch! (nicked a finger). Medic! Band-aid in place, the clipping continues. Some of the grape clusters are woven so tightly together or around a vine or trellis wire... that it becomes quite a puzzle to find the stem to cut that will liberate the grapes from the vine.

At the end of the day we take the grapes back to the cellar to be de-stemmed and crushed.


They are then pumped into the fermentation tanks and we are ready to clean equipment--seaux*, sécateurs, caisses*--for tomorrow's ramassage de raisins.*

Now it's back to our apartments for dinner and beer or wine and a good night's sleep so we can come back tomorrow...  and recommencer.*



Mille mercis to Jacqui, for her harvest hymn. Please be sure to leave Jacqui a note in the comments box. I know she will enjoy hearing from you!  And to Jacqui: thank you for all of the grapes that you brought in... before your knee brought you down! Thanks, too, for the lovely pear tart and for the hot, comforting meals that you cooked for your fellow harvesters.

Jacqui McCargar is a native Californian from Sonoma County's wine country and a Francophile, who loves almost everything about France.

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; sur place = on site; la charcuterie (f) = cold meats (ham, salami...); ailloli (m) = aioli, garlic mayonnaise; le seau (m) = bucket; la caisse (f) = box, case; le ramassage de raisins = gathering of grapes; recommencer = to start again

In Gifts and more..

Pizza herbes

Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of Oregano, Thyme, Basil & Marjoram

Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled savon.

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation. Highlights the essential French grammar and vocabulary you need to know to test well. Prepare for quizzes, tests, AP, PRAXIS II, SAT II, CLEP, and N.Y. Regents Level I-III. Helpful for travelers!



"Scraps & Spikes." (whoops, spokes, "Scraps & Spokes". A sneek preview at this Saturday's photo gallery. Don't miss it! Click here for more about these photos.

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A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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