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French Foreign Legion Wine

The French Foreign Legion has been quietly making wine at its vineyard at Puyloubier in Provence for years and has just announced that it is going to make it available to the public. The 98 acre estate is home to 100 invalid legionnaires who produce 300,000 bottles a year of red, white and rosé to supply the Legion’s Messes scattered around the globe. The Legion has decided to sell their wine, named Esprit de Corps,to help fund the estate and care for the old soldiers who live there.The vineyard lies on the slopes of the Montagne Sainte Victoire made famous by Cézanne who painted it over 60 times. Cézanne lived in nearby Aix-en-Provence and was fascinated by the rugged architectural forms of the mountains.

The vineyard is run by ex-legionnaire Guy Gerard who spent 25 years fighting in Africa and most of the men working the vines are between 50 and 70 years old.

The estate was purchased in 1953 to shelter the Legion’s war wounded and elderly former fighters. The Institution des Invalides de la Legion Etrangère is based on one of the sacred tenets of the Legion: Tu n’abandonnes jamais les tiens, ni au combat ni dans la vie — you never abandon one of your own, neither in battle nor in life – maybe the UK should take a leaf out of the Legion’s book.

Many of the old soldiers who live there have no homes nor family and are either disabled or find settling back into civilian life difficult. The Legion takes good care of its own and provides work and shelter for their veterans.

The wines have been described by Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Lantaires as

“Strong when attacked, solid on the onslaught, full of grapeshot on the front line.”

The Legion was established in 1831, by King Louis Philippe as foreigners were forbidden to serve in the French Army after the 1830 July Revolution. The Legion was stationed in Algeria and was primarily used to protect and expand the French Colonial Empire but it also fought in the Franco-Prussian War and both World Wars.

Today, the 7699 legionnaires from 136 different countries are engaged in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Chad, the Ivory Coast . They also took part in relief efforts in South Asia after the December 2004 tsunami and when President Jacques Chirac volunteered to send French troops to help rebuild Lebanon after the war between Israel and Hezbollah, Legion engineers were the first to reconstruct destroyed bridges.

In the course of its history, 35,000 Legionnaires have been killed in battle or during service to the organization.

If you want to make a donation or sample Esprit de Corps the Legion’s website is www.legion-boutique.fr.

Eat your heart out Beau Geste!
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