It’s Tuesday evening, I find myself at the “Cafe Le Progres”, in the heart of Epernay.
Six Champagne winegrowers, kind of redneck but rich redneck, owning champagne wineyard valued million of Euro per hectar, are seated at a table loaded with empty wine bottles. I find a seat close by, order a bottle and a plate of charcuterie. I open my book, but have a hard time focusing while the volume increases as more bottles pop at their other table.
For ease of reading….Let’s call them Polo (diminutive of Paul), Marcel, Rene, Jean-Marie, Joel and Marco. Jackie is the guy behind the counter and also the bar owner. Rene seated in the middle of the table is the president of the chapter.
Rene: Hey guys! Do you have news of Patrick? I haven’t seen him for a while.
Polo: You don’t know? His wife kick him out. He is living now with Christelle, the hairdresser in Dizy. His wife discovered their affair and she thrown away all his clothes by the window.
Wild laughter ensues….
Marcel: No! You are kidding. I knew he was looking at girls but not up to be kicked out by his wife.
Joel: C’mon he was always thinking kinky.
Marco: That’s mean nothing. The guy is our age, having a daughter getting married. This Christelle he is now with, could be his daughter.
Jackie, the bartender: Hey guys! Your bottle is empty !
Polo: Hey Jackie ! give another one ! it’s my turn.
Once I realize what they are speaking about….I only pretend to read….
Joel: What a shame! Really!
The guy at the end of the table, who didn’t say one word so far, Jean-Marie: Hey guys! All of you there! Don’t make me fool! I know you all! Who can swear he never had a fling? Tell me!
Marcel: I cannot tell! I’ll never tell! My father told me “never confess”, never, never even to the priest! and I deeply respect the memory of my father.
Marcel: May he rest in peace! About me, it doesn’t count. I just got married.
Polo: Yes, for the third time…
Marco: Ok! Me, I could not denied. My wife caught me in action…
The group’s laughter is louder this time….
The waiter comes to check on me, I ask him who these guys are…The waiter informs me that they are members of the “syndicat des vignerons” (the strong and undisputed winegrower union) and more precisely from the Hautvillers chapter; Hautvillers, the deep heart of champagne, the Dom Perignon’s abaye place. Apparently they are here to “prepare” the Saint Michel feast (the winegrower saint patron) in 2 weeks. As it’s a rather important event, I now understand why they are in charge.
Marco: Yes but she forgive me because I convinced her it was not serious and I bought her the dishwasher machine I always refused before.
Jackie the bartender: Another bottle! This is the bottle’s boss!
Rene: And you Jackie! Tell us!
Jackie: Ah! I can’t speak! Never at work.
Polo: Yeah! you drink with customers at work but you can’t tell us your sex stories.
Jackie: Ah No! it’s a matter of work ethic
All: Ha! Bullshit !
Rene: and you Jean-Marie ? Hein? you brought us here !
Jean-Marie: Hum! Me? How to say? Me wife was really suspecting something and she was insisting and insisting to know. But like your father Marcel, I refused to speak about it. One day she said: even on my dying bed you won’t tell me? As she was harassing me so much, I answered: Ok! On your dying bed I’ll tell you. And you know what? Now she doesn’t ask anything else.
If the Saint Michel feast is anything like this meet-up – I’ll be sure to attend.
Visit wine countries, visit Champagne and don’t forget to stop by the local Bar and know your slang!
A la tienne, Etienne !