(Photo taken here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu.) Read about one harvester's experience in the following story column!

Reminder:  If you happen to be in Paris on October 7th then we would love to meet you at the American Library!

terroir (ter-waahr) noun, masculine

    : soil; land

un accent du terroir = a rural accent
la cuisine du terroir = country cooking
un poète du terroir = poet of the land
les mots du terroir
= words with a rural flavor


Audio File and Example Sentence: (Note: I'm afraid a couple of American "r's" slipped in to this recording...) Download Wav or Download MP3

Le terroir ? Il est très important pour la qualité des raisins que l'on peut obtenir, mais c'est surtout le travail de l'homme dans la vigne qui fera la différence, permettant au terroir de s'exprimer ou non.

(Would some of you like to volunteer to translate this one? Thanks for sharing your interpretations in the comments box!)

A Day in a French Life...
Our volunteer harvesters are now volunteering to write stories!  You'd think that after yesterday's wet-n-wild experience (the harvest took place among some very muddy and wet vines...) that the drenched from head-to-pieds pickers would've run home... Instead, they stayed put (with the help of sticky mud?), and eventually returned -- along with a truckload of grapes -- to the cellar, where they washed out all of the buckets and finished a galore of chores. Wet chickens they are not!

The following story was written (before the deluge) by friend and newbie farmer Denise. Enjoy it and please share it.

T E R R O I R Denise Lavoie

As someone earning a certificate in wine technology, the term "terroir" gets tossed around a lot and assumes an almost mystical quality. For me, it became something very real in my first day of harvest here in Provence.

Terroir is the mark a particular place stamps on the grapes and, ultimately, the wine made from those grapes. Place can also leave an indelible mark on people. While grape-picking can be fatiguing and troublesome on one's back, feet, and arms (and the vines seemed to have their way with my exposed forearms -- I have the red welts to prove it), in the end, it is my first, full taste of Provence that is stamped in my sensory memory: the green and gold of the grape leaves as far as the eye can see, soil with rocks the color of butter and foam, gnarled, gray old vines pushed low to the ground by constant mistral winds, deep blue grapes whose sweet, intense taste foreshadows the smooth, yet complex Rhone-blend wine to come; all against a clear, never-ending blue sky, and that mistral wind -- strong enough to knock you sideways, yet providing much needed relief from the heat of the late summer Provençal sun.

Add to this a large dose of good-natured, always helpful fellow harvesters, several languages, some friendly banter among the vines, and a vigneron who cares deeply about the fruit, and you have a pretty solid picture of the mark Provence -- this very real place -- has left on me. I have no doubt my body will ache at the end of each day, and I can (relatively easily) wash away the soil from my hair and the grape juice from my fingernails, but my first taste of Provence -- with its feast for the senses -- will remain and be recalled in each glass of Provençal produced wine that I drink.

Denise Lavoie, an American with Quebeçois roots, drinks wine and studies it via a small wine technology program in the Pacific Northwest. She also instructs at the college level. This is her first time visiting France. She met the Espinasses via an introduction from Robert Camuto, after reading his book Corkscrewed.

She can be reached at [email protected] -- or leave her a note in the comments box.

The chore of chasing grapes.


Les Provençaux et Les Puppies

Puppies Best Friend and a couple of Mother Hens: Jean-Marc and Uncle Jean-Claude. (The other two puppies are patiently waiting their turn to be cuddled.)


French Clockmaker sign : a reproduction of an old French merchant's sign

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves : made with no colorings, artificial preservatives, pulps, purees, juices or concentrates.

In French Music: "Au sourire de l'âme" by Pep's (recommended by my son, Max)

SmartFrench Audio CD's: Learn French from real French people!

French movie: Un coeur en Hiver / A Heart in Winter. Check out the reviews.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Debbie Turner Chavers

What a poetic description of a vineyard and the harvest. Great job:)
Kristin, I loved the picture of the grape vine.


Ally B

My attempt at translation!

The soil? It is very important for the quality of the grapes that you can grow there but more important still, it is the work on the vines which will make the difference, permitting the soil to express itself, or not.


Thank you, Denise! Reading your account caused two simultaneous reactions: first my mind wandered off in a daydream wondering if would ever have the initiative to do as you had done and join the grape harvest, and second (and finally) I returned to your passage and finished reading it, enchanted by your apt description of the land, the sky, the vines and the harvesting. I cannot wait for the provocative account of your first tasting of the wine made from the grapes you've just brought in. And many thanks, too, to Kristin for her generosity in opening her "pages" to other writers! I receive French-Word-A-Day via email; it is like tasting a new and delightful wine each day. Not quite true: some days it's a pastry, and other days present a pâté or terrine or a perfect baguette. At any rate, I'm well nourished by what I read here.

Sandy Maberly

It must be the terroir which "grows" such talented writers or could it be a well deserved glass of wine which influences such well written prose. Anyway, great job Denise, for ALL of your contributions to the production of both wine and words! And the puppies.....can't get enough of them. It was nice of JM and JC to share the stage with them. It's a wonder anyone can get any work done with such sweet babies to cuddle.


Hello Denise.

It has been said that the vines need to suffer to produce grapes of character. I imagine that the same applies to the harvesters, n'est pas? I hope that the terroir you've experienced from your first taste of Provence will remain with you for a long time.

I was watching a show about the town of Beaune in Burgundy. I'm not sure if you'll have the time to head up there but they have a wonderful Chamber of Commerce building that has a wonderful hands-on or should I say nose-on sensory exhibit. There is even a cooperage that has an exhibit of barrel making. I'm not sure if we have such an exhibit in the states or in Canada but it's a great idea!! hint-hint

Thanks for your wonderful posting. It really brought us to the scene.

Diane Scott

Dear Denise, I so enjoyed your post this morning. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us -- beautifully expressed! My husband and I both read "Corkscrewed" recently and enjoyed it immensely. Most intriguing was the chapter concerning bio-dynamic farming. My husband just recently attended a seminar on that concept here in Tallahassee sponsered by the Josephine Porter Institute and Florida A & M University. A truly remarkable process that we are considering applying to the growing of blueberries (the "terroir" here in the Deep South being totally inhospitable to anything concerning the "vine").

Dearest Kristin, And thank you for so graciously sharing your blog with others. The puppies are precious -- merci for the pictures. Et merci aussi for all of "yourself" that you are so passionately willing to share with us "thrice weekly"!


A beautiful impression of Provence Denise. Enjoy, enjoy!
The puppies are absolutely adorable, I don't need to state this, and naturally they steal all the attention. Sorry Jean-Marc and uncle Jean-Claude!

Chere Kristin,
You know that L'Occitane makes all sorts of delicious beauty supplies with grape extract. I think after harvest your skins must be many totally rejuvenated and your body detoxified.

Have a great day...



Hola Denise!
I really enjoy your post today. Your description made me feel like I was there too. As Peter said, I day dream if someday I will have the initiative and the time to do so.

What I liked also is the way you express how the "terroir" leaves a mark in people. Living in a foreign country, I do feel I have my homeland engraved in my heart and now I'm starting to think how this new land will keep also a mask on me and my family.
Thank you so much for trigging(?) that thought!

Querida Kristin: I have to be honest with you... I envy the way you speak french! Your "r's" are perfect and the audio file sounds great! I'm with the ones that think accents are unique and gracious(?). Wish I could speak french like you!


p.s. Today we celebrate de 199th anniversary of idenpendece of my country. For the chance another Mexican reads this post: VIVA MEXICO!!! :)

Jon North

What is terroir? A French word without, I think, a good single English translation. A term that causes fierce debate between wine enthusiasts some of whom see wine as an expression of the fruit, the cépages (grape varieties) and the skills of the vigneron and others who regard the soil, the geology, the particular territory the grapes grow in, as essential to the character of wines. I personally find it hard to argue with this in the Languedoc or the Rhône, but in Beaujolais or Bourgogne where small neighbouring vineyards grow a single grape variety and produce wines of greatly differing flavour and character it seems indisputable that terroir is important to good wine!

Michael Armstrong

The land? (but terroir really means so much more than that). It is very important for the quality of the grapes that can be obtained from it, but it is above all the work of the man in the vines that will make the difference, allowing the land to express itself or not.


Denise, What a lovely post! Thank you. I see that you're studying winemaking in the Pacific Northwest. Any chance that's in Walla Walla (my hometown)?


"puppies patiently waiting their turn to be cuddled"?
I don't believe it!

Suzanne from Chicago

The soil? Of course it is very important for the quality of grapes that it yields, but it is the work of the laborer among the vines that makes the greatest difference, permitting the soil to express itself or not.


I really enjoy the poetry found in a word, in it's sound, spelling and history of meaning no matter what language...thank you Denise for your beautiful images this morning and also to Kristin's accent tingeing her "rrrs" suggesting foreign lands and other stories...

Denise Lavoie

To all who posted such nice comments about my "take on terroir" - I thank you so much! I did not dream it would strike such a chord; I, too, am deeply grateful to Kristin for allowing me to express myself on her blog. I will take the L'Occitaine advice to heart - I have no doubt my hands will thank me!

P.S. - The puppies are even more cute and cuddly in person - each of us cannot get enough of them.

Fred Caswell

I have a story for you, Kristin, but need time to work the old and limited "terroir" of my brain in order that the results will be tasteful and pleasing to you. xo Fred

Kathy Groves

Thank you, Kristin and Denise for bringing the harvest to life for me through your beautiful words and photos. Please thank Max also for his recommendation of the Pep's, I am enjoying their music very much. I followed your link and made my first ever MP3 download purchase. (Luckily my son came by and helped his "fifty-something" mother sort out steps).

Robyn Daniels

Dear Kirstin
Concerning today's blog on the benefits of bilingualism - it switches something on in the brain I think to learn a second language at an early age. Or rather it keeps the channel open to learn other languages. They say all babies make the same sounds when they first find they have the power of making sound and babble. Evntually they lose the ability to make certain sounds - just honing in on those they hear daily.

Being a Welsh-speaker I learned English at the tender age of three and a half when I first went to school. I spoke both English and Welsh at school and just Welsh at home and with friends outside of school. I leaned Latin at the age of 11 (still got 10/10 on translatin quiz on Facebook this week!)as well as French - later German, Spanish and Arabic and this year am learning Italian.

English is far and above my favourite foreign language because it is possible to be so precise in expression through choice of the 'mot juste'.

I stand with your daughter on the animal thing though Braise's second language (her first is Dogspeak after all!) will be the same as whomever she regards as her packleader and she is probably bilingual too; I extend this belief as far as stuffed toys are concerned too. I brought back both a sleeping polar bear (Michelle) and a beautiful French doll (Marie) - my daughter still has them - from visits to Paris; I told my daughter they only spoke French in an effort to get her to learn the language. I am now helping to teach French to both my grandaugher (aged 6) and my brother's granddaughter (aged 9) who are both learning French at school.

I'm sure that learning a second language so young helped me to learn other languages more easily later on.

Your kids have a headstart in life from being bilingual with access to the openmindedness required in having parents from two different cultures.

Dogs just read energy I think (a la Cesar Millan) but also can learn a dozen or so words in many different languages I am sure (my childhood pet dog Pip understood whether we spoke to him in Welsh or English).

Most of all children and pets alike speak the language of love best of all - energy again - and I see you shower your family (human and animal) with plenty!

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