Vin-Filled Excursions

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Grace Heaton
May 4, 2024

It’s no secret that France is one of the world’s leading producers of wine. As someone who grew up in Oregon and California (also major wine regions) and has parents who are members of wine clubs, I was very excited to take advantage of living in a famous wine region and trying a variety of different wines for a lot cheaper than it would be in the US. A glass of wine at a bar or restaurant typically goes for somewhere between €3 to €8 euros in Europe depending on what you get, a lot cheaper than the 10 to 12 dollar minimum for a glass that you’ll see in the United States.

IES Abroad Nantes understands the importance of wine culture in France, and because of this incorporated the chance for us to try a variety of different types of wine in our program excursions.

One of my favorite program-organized trips of the semester was to Bordeaux. Bordeaux is where many of the famous wines in France and wine culture started to develop, as at the time when viticulture became an important aspect of life, Bordeaux’s wine production was not controlled by the Catholic Church. This gave them the freedom and the riches to experiment with a wide variety of different grapes and styles of wine making, making the region a hotspot for vinophiles to this day.

When we were in this beautiful city, our main event was checking out the Cité du Vin, a ginormous wine museum. This incredible museum spoke about Bordeaux’s wine history, general methods of fabrication, and types of wine from all over the world. They even had a fun little quiz as to what type of wine you are! I was a Gewurtzraminer d’Alsace, a white wine from the Alsace region with notes of litchi, rose, and exotic fruits. The quiz described me as a person with a “inhabitual charm, at the same time strong a subtile…[I am] an invitation to travel, to new meetings, and eventful evenings.” It was quite the quiz, and I was happy with the outcome!

On the way back to Nantes, we stopped in Cognac to see the fabrication process of this liquor for ourselves. First, we toured the Chateau de Cognac, which still is a main producer of the liquor to this day. Then, we walked through the factory and saw all of the barrels that have been aiding in the fermentation and alkalization process for centuries. After the tour, we had the chance to taste Cognac by itself, and also mixed into fruity cocktails. I, personally, did not enjoy the liquor by itself, but definitely enjoyed the cocktails.

Our second excursion related to wine was to Clisson. Clisson is a small, Italian-inspired town about a 45-minute drive from Nantes. It is extremely cute and was a pleasure to walk around in. After exploring what the town had to offer and enjoying some delicious Italian food for lunch, we headed to the vineyards in the area.

Nantes is famous for the production of muscadet, a white wine that is typically only produced in the Loire-Atlantique département and in the Bourgogne region.  It's known for its often acidic and mineral quality, and the minerality of the wine can differ depending on whether you are north or south of Nantes. Since the vineyard we visited was south of Nantes, close to Clisson, and was situated right near the Sèvre and Maine rivers, tributaries of the Loire, the terroir of this wine was very mineral, as there is a lot of granite in the ground. To be honest, the wines we tasted at this vineyard were not my favorites, as I enjoy fruitier and often sweeter white wines, but the experience was very unique and certainly not one I will soon forget.

I really appreciate how IES Abroad worked hard to give us very authentic, important cultural experiences to complement our time in Nantes. Since wine culture is so entrenched in French society, it was a really nice way immerse ourselves even further. Now, returning to the U.S. soon, I certainly won’t be able to understand all the complex vocabulary of my wine-club loving parents, but I certainly can stump them when I start talking about wine in French and they have no clue what I’m saying!

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Grace Heaton

Hi! My name is Grace Heaton. I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Nantes in Spring 2024. I am a junior at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, PA studying Marketing, French, and German. I enjoy traveling, learning languages, and adventuring with friends.

Home University:
Duquesne University
Portland, OR
French Language
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