When I was in high school you had two choices about what track you were going to take. If you said that you wanted a “technical” education then you got to take classes like metalworking, carpentry, food preparation, automobile engine repair, and other hands-on instruction. You know, the fun stuff. For the rest of us who said that we were college bound then out came math analysis, calculus, physics, and 17th century literature, for example. Yep, the knowledge that we all use on a daily basis. In France you get some additional choices including the ability to go to a high school that concentrates on the agriculture of your part of the country. Guess what they grow around Carcassonne: grapes. And what do you make with grapes: wine. Yes, in France you can go to high school and learn how to make wine.
About a 20-minute walk from our house is Lycée Agricole Charlemagne where they teach 15 to 18 year olds everything there is to know about viticulture from root stock to stocking the shelves with bottles of wine. The school is surrounded by its own vineyards and was the perfect location to host this weekend’s Wine Fair, where they invited other wine schools in France to share their knowledge and creations.
The entrance fee was 6 euro per person and for that you got a souvenir glass which could be filled with as many tastings as you chose. These future vintners might have been young, but we were both impressed with the wine they presented. There were 30 wines available for tasting and to be polite, of course, we tried some of each. There were also lots of regional products displayed such as honey, preserves, sauces, and foie gras, a small container of which we did end up bringing home.
For a quick cultural note, although the minimum age that someone may buy alcohol in France is 18, there is no minimum drinking age so it would not be unusual at a family dinner to see a teenager enjoying a glass of wine. Since moderation is still a tradition in France, a young person here who has had too much to drink might be visiting from another country.
We found it amusing and appropriate that the person in charge of the event was Monsieur Goût which translates as Mr. Taste. His name says it all.