Tour de France 2014: The Wine Trail, Part II

Wine Tour de France Map_ALTERNATE

WINE STOP STAGE TOUR LOCATION WINE REGION STYLE or GRAPE
F 15 Tallard/NimesCarcassonne Languedoc-Roussillon & Provence Grapes: Rosés made from Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault. Appellations: Cassis, Bandol. BONUS: nicoise olives, aioli, thyme, lavender!
 
G 16 Carcassonne/Bagneres-de-Luchon Pyrenees/South West Grapes: Orange Wines made from Folle Blanche, Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc. Reds from Malbec, Tannat.Appellations: Gaillac, Irouleguy, Madiran, Marcillac. BONUS: Brebis & Cognac!
17 Saint-Gaudens/Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet
18 Pau/Hautacam
 
H 19 Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour/Bergerac Bordeaux Grapes: famous blends created from various combinations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot. Appellations: Saint Emilion, Médoc, Graves. BONUS: Foie Gras, Bordelaise, Canele, and Oysters of Aquitaine!
20 Bergerac/Perigueux
 
I 21 Evry/Paris Champs-Elysees Loire Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Pineau d’Aunis, Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc.Appellations: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Muscadet, Chinon, Saumuer Champigny, Jasnieres, Cheverny, Touraine, Anjou. BONUS: Tarte Tatin, Mushrooms, Charcuterie!

And we’re back for Part II. After discovering the tastes of northern regions, you’ll notice the flavor structure start to really change as we progress down and across southern France. Take note of your preferences, as well as how the changes in the landscape and climate might give you clues as to how and why these changes occur.

Wine Stop F: LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON & PROVENCE

The breathtaking landscapes bursting with genet & lavender, the omnipresent ocean breeze…enough to turn anyone’s head and sigh wistfully. For me, there is something unstoppable about this area, especially in Provence. Maybe that’s why it suffers under it’s own rosé cliché, but we should remember that trends and clichés originate from incredible novelty. Mourvedre, the grape most common in rosé and native to both Provence and Languedoc, is thick-skinned and bursting with flavor. In red wines, it is generally used as a blending grape due to its intensity. But as rosé, its true character is revealed: the nuances in texture, color, and aroma are finally given a chance since the thick skins are removed much earlier during the maceration period. You then realize that the subtleties you are tasting are a reflection of actually a quite rugged and harsh coastal environment: the strong mistral wind from the north, the conglomerate of soils types (limestone, shale, clay, sandstone, and quartz) and the intense dry heat of the mediterranean sun. This truth, the balance of harsh and delicate, are what make the region unique, and will always surpass the clichés.

Camille Fourmont, proprietor of the incredible La Buvette in Paris, says: “In Provence, wines from Guy & Thomas Jullien, vignerons from the appellation Beaume de Venise, Jean Christophe Comor and also le Chateau Sainte Anne à Bandol… in le Languedoc,  Jean Baptiste et Charlotte Senat in le Minervois.”

Wine Stop G: PYRENEES & SOUTH WEST

Where are we? Why are we here? This relatively unknown region has some of the most exciting wines I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it’s the influence of Spain next door, the extreme altitude of the Pyrenee mountains, or the fact that the farmers love their soil….or all 3. Dirty, barnyard, herbaceous, leather, bodacious, are a few words I would use to describe them (these are good wine words). Do yourself a favor and get acquainted. I have yet to try a wine from this region that lacks extraordinary personality.

Eric Asimov, Wine Critic for the New York Times, coincidentally just returned from a trip here, and told me his favorite producers include: Domaine Ilarria, Domaine Brana, Herri Mina, Amextia Etzaldia and Arretxea.

Wine Stop H: BORDEAUX

The definition of old world: Eleanor of Aquitaine, “Entre-Deux-Mers”, “Cru”, St. Emilion, Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion….it all came down to a few grapes that were cultivated, blended, reshuffled, sampled, and labeled, over time becoming so prestigious that the region is sometimes all we know about the wine. But what makes a Bordeaux, anyway? Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec are the most common red grape varietals, blended in varying percentages depending on the appellation and chateau. The thing is, there are so many blends, crus, vintages, etc. it’s easy to get lost without finding a bottle that actually satisfies your palette and your budget. I’ve had a lot of trouble with this myself, and asked another favorite wine friend for her suggestions.

Cat Silirie, Executive Wine Director for the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, says: “It can be tough to parse through the prestige of the region and find a bottle that actually gives a sense of place. When looking for a bottle, think about the geology and microclimates, focus non classified growths and appellation-emphasized bottles. The variations are incredible:  some wines offer a delicate, minerality while others a more structured, textured body, high in tannin. The right bank  tends to produce more Cab Franc & Merlot, while the left bank is heavier on Cabernet Sauvignon. The emphasis should be on the vigneron, not on the cellar. A producer I love and have been working with for over 20 years is Chateau Haute-Segottes (St. Emilion), and local shop the Wine Cask in Somerville has a lovely, affordable selection.”

Wine Stop I: LOIRE

I’ll be honest: the Tour doesn’t actually go through the Loire this year, but it would be a tragedy not to include this region in our otherwise comprehensive wine expedition. The Loire is home to some of the most exciting, progressive wines on the market today, thanks to the efforts of small-vineyard farmers who, more than anything else, uphold the value of quality over quantity. Much of the region is situated on or fed by the Loire River, creating an extremely fertile and abundant span of countryside to cultivate grapes. Popular grapes are Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, Poulsard, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir, to name a few. You might recognize some of these as their appellations or subregions, such as Muscadet, Chinon, or Sancerre. Needless to say, there is such a diversity and abundance of vineyards and production methods, no two are quite alike and the result is an extraordinary array of elegant, bizarre, texture-filled wines.

Zev Rovine, Wine Importer Extraordinaire, recommends anything by these producers: Robinot, Tessier, Paonnerie, Clos Rougeard, and Domaine la Chevalerie, just to name a few.

So that’s it. Think you appreciate French wine a little more? What region(s) do you prefer? Which grapes? Why? Send me your thoughts.

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