About this time a year ago, we had lived in France for only three weeks when an announcement on the city’s website regarding an event for that weekend caught our eye—Wine Fair! We knew that we had moved to the world’s largest grape-growing area but we didn’t realize that there was a high school devoted to the craft just a few minutes’ walk from the house. With the promise of 30 wines, 6 beers, and 2 ciders, we just had to go…for a taste, of course.
High schools in France give students the opportunity to decide if they want to pursue a university degree or prefer a more hands-on approach to a career be it industrial or laboratory science, health and social sciences, music or dance, or trades that require internships, to name a few. The Lycée Charlemagne, located not far from where we used to live by the castle, specializes in agriculture, so if you want to become any kind of farmer, including a wine grower, this is the place to be. Since Carcassonne is such a magnet for tourists, other high schools here offer specialization in hospitality and the restaurant industry. In contrast, we saw a TV program about Le Mans, the French city north of us that is famous for the Grand Prix road race, and is the city of choice for young people who want to learn all about automobile and motorcycle mechanics.
Once a year, our local Lycée Charlemagne joins with its fellow agriculture schools from around the country to host a wine festival that features the products created in well-known regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne plus at least a dozen other areas, less publicized but that produce wines just as tasty. For 6 euros/dollars you get a souvenir glass that is filled, sample size, with nearly 3 dozen examples of the best wines that these schools have to offer, plus beers and ciders. As you would expect, some students were still honing their presentation skills while others were ready for any high-end restaurant or winery in Paris, New York, Napa Valley, or Sonoma county. One trait shared by all was their enthusiasm for this wine that they had studied, nurtured, and followed from planting, to harvesting, to bottling and finally to marketing to potential customers. They found an enthusiastic audience!