Hand Made

On the slopes of the Sainte-Victoire mountain, the residents of the Foreign Legion’s home for disabled soldiers oversee 40 hectares of vines, from which they obtain a wine famous all over the world.

By Jean-Dominique Dalloz - Photos José Nicolas - November 4, 2011

It’s a special day in September. The legionnaires from the Aubagne regiment survey the vines loaded with grapes on this southern slope of the Sainte-Victoire mountain . But for the day’s drill, there are neither uniforms nor weapons. They’ve come with their families to lend a hand to the residents at the Foreign Legion’s home for disabled soldiers, for the first day of the grape harvest.

Located in Puyloubier since 1953, this retirement home for the Legion’s injured

veterans provides assistance of course to the residents (the oldest has just celebrated his 91st birthday), but the home also keeps the veterans busy with a variety of activities, adapted to their capabilities. In this way, working the vines keeps many of them busy throughout the year, with the highlight being this wonderful day when all generations come together. Here, a veteran shows a new recruit how to use the shears, and over there a legionnaire and father sort the bunches, his baby comfortably ensconced

in a kangaroo bag with his nose in the grapes.

In the heart of the Côtes de Provence wine region, the home’s winery benefits from a climate favorable to grape growing, plenty of sunshine, and the benevolence of a handful of the Legion’s 90 retired veterans. At the end of the grape harvest, the vinification takes place at Puyloubier’s cooperative cellar, which produces a special vintage called “Esprit de Corps,” meaning comradeship. The wine produced has powerful aromas, and of course some spicy notes… In total, almost 220,000 bottles will be produced and then sold via the Foreign Legion’s online shop again this year. However, a large percentage is reserved for the meals of the regiments of the famous army corps, in France and overseas.

The end of the day is here. Amongst the vines, the men and their families are exhausted. The sun is setting, flooding the alabaster façade of the Sainte-Victoire mountain with its last rays. And unlike in Joe Dassin’s famous song “Il faut naître à Monaco,” this time, no one smells like hot sand! But everyone, veterans of wars in Indochina or Algeria, young legionnaires, military wives and children, flaunt big smiles.

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Institution des invalides de la Légion étrangère
Domaine Capitaine Danjou
13114 Puyloubier
Tél. : 04 42 91 45 01
www.iile.legion-etrangere.com

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