Each year, the vineyards of the Rhône Valley of France experience Le Mistral. What is it, and what does the term mean?

A. Nighttime visits from migrating peacocks. The word means mistress.

B. Thick fog. The word means mist.

C. An intense wind. The word means masterful.

D. Heavy rain. The word means cascade.


Each year, the vineyards of both the northern and southern Rhône are subject to a howling, icy northern wind known as Le Mistral. In the Occitan dialect of southern France, the word means “masterful.” Strongest between winter and spring, the wind often reaches speeds of over 40 mph (65 km/h) and has been known to get as high as 115 mph (180.1 km/h). The wind, which can pick up a grown woman a foot off the ground (this is based on personal research), can be destructive, but it can also be beneficial in its ability to quickly cool the vines during periods of intense heat. The winds of Le Mistral have long had an influence on the architecture of the region. Houses traditionally face southeast, with their backs to the wind, and many churches have open iron grill bell towers, which allow Le Mistral to pass through.

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