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French word of the day: Vendange

It’s harvesting season so is there a better time to learn about the French wine-making process?

French word of the day: Vendange
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know vendange?

Because wine is such an important part of the French culture that knowing its vocabulary is almost an obligation.

What does it mean?

Vendange is the French word for “grape harvest”.

Its plural form is the one used the most since it refers to the grape harvesting season as a whole, generally happening from September to October.

When used in singular form, it’s a bit more specific and designates a “grape crop” as in “his grape crop was too bad to be sent to the dealer”.

The verb vendanger is the action of picking grapes.   

Know that it’s a term proper to the wine world and that it’s not used for any other fruit. For apples, pears etc use the words récolte or cueillette.

Use it like this

C’est la saison des vendanges – It’s wine harvest season

Ce vin est issu d’une vendange tardive – This is a late-harvest wine”


Cueillette – Collection

Récolte – Harvest

Moisson – Harvest (used for cereals)

Glanage – Gathering

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.