Idiomatic wine labels

Browsing the wine section at my local supermarket, I suddenly stopped as I found it interesting to come across these bottles with French idioms on their labels. 

Varietals / Grape Varieties

More about their meanings below, meantime the varietal names, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are by now so well known to wine consumers that they need no further explanation. 
If it were a competition varietals would win among local consumers. In many establishments that's all that is offered.  However, most of the wine in France is bottled with regional or estate names and may not immediately recommend themselves to those who select their wine according to grape variety - Chablis, for example is a Chardonnay.  

We're getting there but it may take a while longer until outlets and the wine consuming public develop greater confidence with LaBel(le)France  And that's why these labels are such a good idea.  They create  a splash of fun with the language and promote that much-needed familiarity.


So what do the idioms on the labels mean?

Tout un fromage
This is the whole cheese. A big cheese. It implies something strong and prominent.

Froid de canard
When the weather is very cold the French have an expression that runs "Il fait un froid de canard".  Literally, Duck Cold!  That seems a pretty good choice for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Avoir la pêche
Literally to have the peach implies to be in really good form, to be in high spirits. I wonder does it also refer to the taste characteristics of this Chardonnay.  Only one way to find out!

Maybe time to get some of these in for La Fête Nationale on the 14th.

Remember those other wine-related expressions though!  You know the ones that relate to good health.  These ones:

Attention à l'abus d'alcool and Consommer avec modération !

Santé !

Françoise HARDY - 12 juin 2024


Françoise HARDY has left us at the age of 80.  Time then to revisit her reflective 2018 album, Personne d'Autre.  The sleeve notes record: "Pour des tas de raisons raisonnables, je n'envisageais pas de refaire un album".  So pleased that she did make it thanks to conversations between her and producer Erick BENZI.  

The last track of the album, Un mal qui fait du bien was co-written in September 2017 with Thierry STREMLER.  The final couplet roughly translates as "I stop there, I hold back; neither last word nor final word..." It says: "j'arrête là,  je me retiens ; ni dernier mot ni mot de la fin..."

Green lemon moments


It was a green lemon moment. 

It happened when translating citron vert for a menu I was working on.  

It would be nice to say that my rendition was due to pressure of time or working late at night but no, from a French language perspective, it was a basic school day error. The translation should of course have been lime.  I realised and self-corrected my mistake for a later version but the original menu had already been circulated. 

You can guess: Blush and red now added to the colour palette of lemon, green and lime.


The interesting thing is that green lemons do exist and they are not limes.  Although lemons and limes are from the same plant family they are not the same fruit.  In fact, some supermarkets recently had to compensate for shortages of lemons - you know the yellow ones - by selling green lemons.  Now they are the same fruit at different stages of ripeness, with the green ones having some days extra shelf life. They are not limes.

This sets me to wondering if the restaurant whose menu I had translated really wanted to use green lemon and not lime.  And I think all of this would be lost in translation.  


Citron vert in French still means lime and for a Francophone the tartness of that vocabulary error still lingered in the mouth.  

So I decided on an action plan. And that's to squeeze several minutes a day into recovering and brushing up my French.  I have developed a tiny habit of finding 5 or 10 minutes a day to really focus on the language. Often I get caught up in an article or listening to an item and 20 to 30 minutes could pass but the basic commitment is to finding that 5/10 daily. 

And that simple habit is bearing fruit.  From green to yellow it's ripening nicely.


Here's an article from Yummy that I found interesting: What's the Difference: Green Lemon v Lime 

Do you have your own "green lemon" moment? Or a daily habit for retaining and improving your French? I would love to hear.

Étagères - bookshelves

We recently took a mid-week break in one of our more prestigious hotels and among the facilities I spotted on arrival was a small library space but with expansive shelves.

Books!  Forget about the spa; a reading nook is my pamper place.  Getting absorbed in a book is something that I really enjoy and what a delight it was to find these volumes from the Masterpiece Library of Short Stories. 

Naturally I picked the one marked FRENCH Volumes 3 and 4. 
Look at the contents page in the second photo above.  Wouldn't you be tempted to spend an hour or two?  Well, I was and that's just what I did. 

It was time well spent.

What a labour of love it must have been for editor Sir JA Hammerton and his board of eminent critics under the auspices of The Educational Book Company to compile these volumes of stories across countries and time periods. The books, dating from the early twentieth century, naturally show signs of age, wear and tear but those stories are timeless.  

Some hospitality outlets display books as decoration and may even have bought them in by the metre to fill shelf space. I have even seen books cut in half vertically to better fit a narrow space!  Not these ones. With comfortable armchairs, sofas and lighting these books were meant to be browsed, lifted down and read.   

But hotel stays end and the books must stay.  Still, those stories need reading and so I went in search of copies online, finding them in all their varying conditions of wear and price ranges.
I did, and a copy of those short stories Volumes 3 and 4 is heading my way.

I have space on a shelf and a comfortable chair.

Bonne lecture !

Claude Monet : The Immersive Experience

 I've only been to a couple of such exhibitions in which the work of artists is projected onto walls, ceilings and screens to the accompaniment of musical soundscapes.

As it was nearing the end of its run in Belfast at the Carlisle Memorial Church we decided to make a day of it and visit The Claude Monet Immersive Experience.  

Although not as extensive as an experience we viewed in Paris at the Atelier des Lumières we very much appreciated the scale and depth of this one and its venue -  an old church at Carlisle Circus in Belfast. It was just right and care had been taken to present material in fine detail.

Monet's art was set in context through several information boards, again that music bathing us in sound. A walk through a set with the bridge and the artist's home at Giverny; books on top of a table as if they had just recently been read and set down. Details.

We moved on through into the body of the church taking a seat in one of the many deckchairs around the walls.  Immersive, yes that's the word. Immersed in colour, movement and sound.

The show itself focussed in on the tiny details of the works of art - we could see the brush strokes in close up high definition. Wonderful.

On the way out there was the inevitable merchandise but it was good quality and yes we bought a couple of souvenir items.

A memorable visit. Hope that the organisers - FeverUp - bring more events like this.  We'll be there.