Tour de France 2014 : The Wine Trail, Part I

Wine Tour de France Map_ALTERNATE

Given that we can’t be in France to ride it firsthand, why not experience the Tour through the glorious wine regions they pass through? By tasting the incredible variety throughout the country, we’ll be able understand the style & flavors that define them and get a great sense of place.

Now that we’ve crossed the Channel into the motherland, we’ve got some serious taste-touring to do. I’m going to take you through the stages as they parallel the surrounding wine regions. You’ll be given a different set of grapes and BONUS! point food pairings for each Wine Stop. I’ve asked a few of my favorite wine people to throw in their recommendations for each Stop, wines that really show off the region at its best, and can hopefully be found at your friendly local wine shop. The table will outline the entire Wine Stop’s grapes, appellations, and local food pairings, as well as help you locate where we are on the handy Wine Map above. The goal is to follow the bikers as best we can by having all the wine they’re missing out on while touring. Somebody’s gotta do it, right?

WINE STOP STAGE TOUR LOCATION WINE REGION STYLE or GRAPE
A 4 Le Touquet-Paris-Place/Lille Metropole Near Normandy Grapes: we’re going with CiderBONUS: Oysters & Calvados!
5 Ypres/Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
 
B 6 Arras/Reims Champagne Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier.BONUS: more bubbles!
7 Epernay/Nancy
 
C 8 Tomblaine/Gerardmer La Mauselaine Alsace & Lorraine Grapes: Vin Gris, Riesling, Gamay Rosé, Pinot Noir, Aubin Blanc, Auxerrois Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat.BONUS: Quiche!
9 Gerardmer/Mulhouse
10 Mulhouse/La Planche des Belles Filles
 
D 11 Besancon/Oyonnax Jura Grapes: Poulsard, Trousseau, Savagnin Blanc, Vin Jaune.Appellations: Arbois, Cotes de Jura, L’Etoile.BONUS: Comte cheese!
 
E 12 Bourg-en Bresse/Saint-Etienne Burgundy, Rhone Valley & Alps Grapes: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Grenache, Carignan Syrah, Viognier. Whites include Picpoul, Clairette.Appellations: Cote de Nuits, Maconnais, Beaujolais, Crozes-Hermitage, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Chateauneuf-du-Pape.BONUS: mustard from Lyon!
13 Saint-Etienne/Chamrousse
14 Grenoble/Risoul

Wine Stop A: NORMANDY

An historic region of epic proportions, the timeless taste of the land is brought to you not by wine but by Cider- yes, Cider. This is not the taught, overripe American stuff thrown in the beer section at your local mart because nobody knows what to do with it. This is the apple-based equivalent of Champagne. It is a perfect starter for the Tour as a bright, slightly sour, low alcohol sparkler that goes down amazingly well with oysters and seafoods, not to mention crepes with mushrooms and Camembert cheese.

Try: Etienne DuPont Cidre Bouché Brut, Le Père Jules Cidre

Wine Stop B : CHAMPAGNE

We are in bubble country- the most famous of bubble countries. Take a moment to appreciate the fact that there are only 3 grapes produced in this region: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and they’re all fermented to bubbly perfection. Most often, Champagne is made from 100% Chardonnay, known as Blanc de Blancs, but try the more rare Blanc de Noirs (all Pinot Noir) for hints of blackberry, and sometimes a slightly purple color in the glass. There are an endless number of methods used to perfect taste and texture, but the most famous was championed here in Champagne, known as the Méthode Champenoise, which set the standard for the world of bubbly wine.  Describing the intricacies of this and othermethods will be saved for another post, but in general, the process of making bubbly wine is introducing enough carbon dioxide into the wine to make it effervescent.

Try: Pol Roger, Saint Chamant, Pierre Peters, Rene Geoffrey, Ruinart, and Pierre Gimonet & Fils

Wine Stop C: ALSACE

Lots of great whites in this region. Chardonnay and Rieslings are super elegant, peachy and buttery, and can have a very full mouthfeel. Since the region borders on Germany, the backbone and substance to these whites is only matched by Gewurtzraminer, another German grape which grows here. It leans towards a more grassy, mineral taste but still bold and beautifully golden in the glass. The mountains lend themselves well to such structured whites, all of which have a moderate to high level of alchohol content (upwards of 15%). Best of all, oak-aging is not a popular sport in Alsace, which ensures that “clean” taste I prefer in white wine. And if you didn’t get enough bubbles, there’s always Cremant d’Alsace.

Lauren Friel, Wine Director at Oleana says: “Try Valentin Zusslin Riesling Clos Liebenberg, or anything by Pierre Frick.”

Wine Stop D: JURA

The name “Jura” from Jurassic, may help in comprehending the profound effect the soil has on the vines in this region. In one area in particular, an appellation known as L’Etoile, fossilized starfish can be found buried among the ancient layers of limestone. So it comes as no surprise that the wines from this region are, by definition, exceptional. Many of the Orange wines I recently posted about are produced here, in a style that tastes similar to their gorgeous cousin, Vin Jaune, but younger and easier to find. Most are made from the grape Savagnin (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), and have an incredibly intense citrus acidity, with hints of nut and spice. Depending on the bottle, some taste akin to a Normandy cider, a Lambic beer, or Sherry (Fino or Amontillado).

Try: Domaine de Montborgeau L’Etoile, Philippe Bonard Cotes du Jura Savagnin, Domaine Jean-Macle Château-Chalon, Cotes de Jura L’Etoile Nicole Deriaux.

Wine Stop E: BURGUNDY & RHONE VALLEY

Some of the oldest single-vineyard establishments stem from these regions. In fact, Burgundy has the highest number of AOCs (Appellations d’Origine Controllee) than anywhere else in France. Where Champagne set the standard for bubbles, you could say Burgundy set the international standard for the everlasting, timeless expression of Pinot Noir. And where most appellations are obscured by the overarching name of the region, Beaujolais has become an internationally celebrated favorite in its own right (ex: when I started drinking Beaujolais, I thought it was a grape) and leads the charge for the deliciously affordable, easy-drinking bottle to share with friends and family. Just slightly further is the Rhone Valley, divided into North (generally producing Syrah and single varietal whites) and South (known for its bold blends that can triumph any steak, so well known that they too have surpassed their region, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape). I think of these areas as the inspiration for Napa and Sonoma, and often draw flavor comparisons between the two.

Colleen Hein, Wine Director at Eastern Standard says: “In Burgundy, try Phillippe Pacalet, Domaine Fourrier and Comte Armand. In Rhone, Theirry Allemand, Jean Louis Chave, August Clape and Chateau Rayas.”

That should keep you going for the first half of the Tour. Stay tuned for Part II!

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