Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 15. Laissac-Sévérac l’Église — Le Puy-en-Velay

As a Norwegian, I was of course hoping for Edvald Boasson Hagen yesterday. It was once again close, but no cigar. One second and two third places are not bad. But in this sport, particularly when it comes to the stages, “The winner takes i all”. The winner is remembered. But no one remembers nuber two and three.

It was a tactical blunder from Fabio Aru to sit far back in the peloton in the final, being behind several gaps, loosing time and loosing the yellow jersey. I doubt that Chris Froome will give it away once more before they reach Paris.

Today is another stage with some hard climbs (1st cat) and a descent to the finish. One of the ascents is new, and has never before been used in Tour de France. Romain Bardet is said to be the only rider who knows the area, and may have an advantage. The profile should also suit him, as a good climber and descender. Maybe it will be another French day.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 15. Laissac-Sévérac l’Église — Le Puy-en-Velay

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 14. Blagnac — Rodez

French stage win on the Bastille day, and the fourth French stage win, is very popular in France. Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana demonstrated that they cannot be written off. The situation between Chris Froome and Mikel Landa gives some flashback to Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome some years ago. With 6 seconds between Fabio Aru and CHris Froome, and 35 seconds between the first four, everything is open.

Today there is a good chance that a break away will succeed. The GC contender will not win time by attacking on this stage, and will probably not use energy to chase som riders who are no threat to them. The stage goes mainly slightly up, with no really hard climbs. The finish is a 570 m climb at 9,6%. It will not be a stage for the sprinters. It is difficult to pick favourites. It is a question of commin in the right break away.

The most interesting wine are along today’s stage is Gaillac.

Gaillac is one of many places that claims to be the first place where they started to produce sparkling wine. It is not possible to decide who was first. Sparkling wine was an accident. The finished wine that had stopped fermenting and was bottled some time in the late autoum, was not always completely fermented. But the low temperature had stopped the fermentation. When the temperature was rising in the spring, the fermentation started again i some bottles. Neither the bottles nor the corks were made for this pressures. Bottles exploded and corks popped. The oldest documented production of sparkling wine was i Limoux, where such procuction was documented in 1543. But having the oldest documentation, does not mean that they were first.

Both in Gaillac and Limoux, the produce sparkling wine with old method, in Limoux called Methode ancestrale, and in Gaillac Method gaillacoise. They use the same grape, Mauzac. In this process, there is no second fermentation. The wine is botteled before the fermentation has finished, and the fermentation continue in the bottles. A similar method is to some extent used in Loire, Die (Rhône) and Bugey. Dry wines are a rather modern fashion. Old fashioned wines, like the sparkling wines produced with this method are not dry. In my opinion, they are more interesting than good.

Gaillac is located by the river Tarn, which flows out in the river Garonne, which flows out in the ocean at Bordeaux. This is one of the areas whose wine were used to improve bordeaux wine, and did not get a reputation on its own, as we mentioned to stage 10, to Bergerac.

Gaillac is one of the oldest wine regions in France. Here it has been produced wine since Roman times, maybe even longer.

Gaillac is located between The Mediterranain and the Atlanctic, and is said to be able to produce wines both in the Atlantic and the Mediterranian style, as well as more typical inland style. The main wine growing areas are located west of Albi, where we find the best area Gaillac Premières Côtes. But there is also a smaller area east of the town.

In Gaillac they produce many types of wine, red, white, rosé and sparkling. It has been said that they produce som many different wines in Gaillac and they have to make up their mind. Versatility may have its advantages. But it can also lead to lack of identity. Helen Savage writes this in her wine blog:

“Gaillac is learning to be different. Its vineyards along the Tarn Valley in South West France were first planted by the Romans and it remains a land of proud traditions as well as of generous people. And it’s upon that long tradition that some growers there are daring to build a platform for future success.

(…) but Gaillac is a crossroads in more than one sense. Its splendid climate (…) is a unique mix of Atlantic, Mediterranean and Continental influences. Its vignerons can grow grapes suited to all three and make almost every style of wine imaginable, including pétillant (perlé), sparkling, dry and doux (but not liquoureux) whites, rosés, light, primeur summer-drinking reds and others high in tannin and extract that cry out for careful cellaring. It’s almost too easy. But that’s why they now have to make hard choices and leave others to grow Gamay, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. In a fiercely competitive market their future lies in doing what only they can do – and in making the most of their special red varieties Duras and Braucol (sometimes called Fer Servadou) and the local white varieties Loin de l’Oeil and Mauzac. Duras, for example, features in no other appellation. Gaillac wines taste like no others; and the best, almost all from these four grapes, are now beginning to make UK critics sit up and take notice.”

It is difficult to describe a typical Gaillac wine. It is easy to agree that Gaillac will not be very interesting as long as they follow the various trends in the wine world. It is local traditions and identity that makes a district interesting. Who cares about another Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot produced a place in France the few persona have heard of?

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 13. Saint-Girons — Foix

Here in France, they are celebrating the third French stage victory, and a French rider in the polka dot jersey. It is better than French riders have been doing for years. Chris Froome is not unbeatable. The question now is if Sky will attack now, or if they will wait till they get to the Alps.

Today is Bastille Day, the French Natinonal Day. This is the day every French rider is dreaming of winning the stage. But for us Norwegians interested in cycyling, July 14 is also an important day. It is 30 years ago today, that Dag Otto Lauritzen as the first Norwegian rider, won a stage in Tour de France, the stage up to Luz Ardiden.

Dag Otto is an interesting case and an interesting personality. He was a policeman and a military parachuter before he became a cyclist. In 1980, at the age 23, he was severly injuried and nearly crippled in a parachute accident. The doctors gave him a 50% chance of being able to walk again after the accident. He took up cycling as retraining after the accident, and realised that he had a talent for cycling. Four years later, in 1984, he won the bronze medal in the Los Angeles olympics. And another three year after that, he won the Tour de France stage. Dag Otto often says that “Nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes more time”. In a way, he is a living proof. And it did not even take him very long to do the impossible. Today he is part of the crew of the Norwegian TV channel that is brodcasting Tour de France, TV2.

But we have to return to today’s stage. On paper, it does not look too hard. It is short, 101 km, with three category 1 climbs. It ends with a 26 km descent to Foix. I do not know how this descent is. But it tends to be hard riding at these kind of stages. The time limit (delay) will be rather short, and some riders may have problems finishing within the time limit.

Ariège is a departement often visited by Tour de France, either on the way into or out of hthe Pyrenees. For us who are searching for someting interesting to drink from the area, lokal beverages from Ariège is a challenge. If we are looking for something appropriate to celebrate the French national day, we have to search other places. Limoux is the closest district that has someting to offer for such an occation.

er et departement som Tour de France ofte er innom på vei til eller fra Pyreneene, og for oss som jakter på interessant, lokalt drikke er Ariège en utfordring. Hvis vi skulle jakte på noe som passer for å feire Frankrikes nasjonaldag, da må vi lete andre steder. Limoux er det nærmeste området som kunne hatt noe å by på til en slik anledning.

The French newpaper Le Figaro has a short overview overVin de Pays de l’Ariège. Here they write that Ariège is well known for its wins. Wine from this district, from the area around Mirepoix, was first mentioned in 971. Ariège wines were well knwon in medieaval times, but is long forgotten. It is a bit strange that they illustrate this overveiw with a map of wine districts in the South West, without Ariège on the map.

Each time the Tour is in this departement, I am searching for information om wines from here. Fraench Wikipedia has some more information. But this is also mostly about a glorious past, about wine growing in Pamiers in 1225, that the wine was popular in England, etc.

It says that there are 60 ha vineyard within the area classified as IGP Ariège, ana that the production in 2009 was 1800 hl, which is not much.

At the end of the 1990s som wine growers wanted to improve the quality of wine from Ariège. They wanted to produce wine from old and alomst forgotten grapes. The Magazine L’Express has an article about four friends who have come together to reestablish wines from Ariège, Quatre amis s’associent pour faire revivre le vin ariégeois. According to the article, they have established subscription for the wines, and the locals have preordered from a limited production. This is probably one reason why the wine is hard to find.

I was in Ariège and Foix last year, and as always, I tried to find local wine. To the local trout we had for dinner in our hotel’s restaurant, which should be one of the better restaurants in Foix, I asked for a local, white wine. I was given the choice between a Jurançon sec or a Gaillac, none of them very local in Foix. As we were arriving from Pau, and had Jurançon sec the day before, we went for Gaillac. I have to add that 75% of the wine from Ariège is red wine, and they had a local red wine. But red wine was not my choice to trout. Usually, restaurants are good places to tase local wine. The often find some good, hard to fine wines that they are proud to serve. But not here, at least not a white wine. I was thinking that they were not very proud of their wine.

I found a small wine merchant were I got some local wine, and bought a few bottles. But this was not very interesting wines. Next time I am in this district, I will again ask for local wine, and hope to taste some of the results of the quality improvement thas has been expected for some time. But it is not a wine I will try to find outside of this area..


Le Guide Hachette des vins

Of the three wine guide books I am usually consulting, Hachette is the only one to include some wines from Ariège. These are Dominik BENZ , Domaine de Lastronques and   Domaine du Sabarthès.

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 12. Pau — Peyragudes

Marcel Kittel is the King of the sprints this year. We got a new demonstration of power from him.

But we will not see much of Marcel Kittel and the other sprinters the next days. Now the riders are going into the mountains, and today there is a mountain top finish. The GC-contenders must show their cards, and start to attack Chris Froome.

I will start with the topography, and I like to use this sattellite image.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 12. Pau — Peyragudes

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 11. Eymet — Pau

Another impressive sprint from Marcel Kittel. The other sprinters may be talking about their lead up trains. But Marcel Kittel accelerates on the outside, and get a much higher speed.

Today is another flat stage. It even goes slightly down the last few kilometers. It will be fast. I will not be surprised if Marcel Kittel takes home another victory. The GC teams will take it easy, try to stay out of trouble and save energy for the mountains ahead.

Today, we will have something stronger than the other days: Armagnac. Armagnac is a brandy made in a certain area in France, just as cognac is a brandy from the Cognac area in France. They make brandy many places, but armagnac and cognac can only be made in Armagnac and Cognac repspecitvely. Today’s stage goes through Armagnac.

Armagnac is the oldest form of French brandy. It has been produced since the 14th century. The production represents a blend of three cultures: The Romans introduced wine (as they had learned to make from the Greeks), the Arabs introduced destillation and the Celts introduced the barrels.

The production district in Armagnac is divided into three areas: Bas Armagnac, Haut Armagnac and Tenaréze. Only ca 1% is produced in Haut Armagnac, so in practise this is not an important area.

Armagnac starts as a rather bland white wine. It is made from grapes that give low alcohol and high acidity. Ten different grapes are allowed, but only the first four on this list are used.

  • Ugni Blanc 55%
  • Baco (aka Baco 22A) 35%
  • Folle Blanche 5%
  • Colombard 5%
  • Plant de Graisse
  • Meslier St François
  • Clairette de Gascogne
  • Jurançon blanc
  • Mauzac Blanc
  • Mauzac Rosé

The wine is then distilled. In Armagnac they usually use Alambic Armagnacais. These are often rather small, some are mobile.

The Alembic is made from copper. It is a continous process. Wine is filled in the wine vat at the top. The wine is used to cool the varpour in the distillation process, meaning that the wine is already heated when it comes to the coloumn and the boiler. The wine pour over some evapouration plates, and is spilled over to the next, before ending in the boiler. Wine and vapour are in contact in this process. The vaopur goes the the cooler, where it is condenced and pour into a barrel as armagnac.

Amagnac is distilled one time, to a strenght between 52 and 72,4% alcohol. They distill to high alcohol for finesse an armagnac not meant to be aged, and for Blanche Armagnac (armagnac that is not stored). Armagnac to be aged is distilled to lower alcohol to keep the fruity and the richness in the armagnac.

In 2005 the regulation was changed to allow the production of Blanche de armagnac, an armagnac that is not stored. I have not tasted this type of armagnac. The aging requirements for the various quality designation of armagnac, are:

  • VS: 1 year
  • VSOP: 4 years
  • NAPOLEON: 6 years
  • XO: 6 years
  • 20 years 20 years
  • Vintage: Single Harvest from the year on the label (minimum 10 years old)

The English wine merchant Berry Bros and Rudd has a wide selection Armagnac in various vintagees from 1893 to present. They used to have a duty free shop at one of the terminals at London Heathrow Airport. It was a small shop with a limited selection. But we could pre order from their entire catalogue, and pick it up when leaving. I used to order armagnac vintage 1955, the year I was born. I collected them for my 50 years birthday, which was some years ago. I still have some bottles left. Unfortunatley, they no longer have this shop. But my vintage is sold out, anyhow.

I find armagnac more interesting than cognac. More interesting does not necesarrily mean better, but more interesting. We often get armagnac from single producers, in idividual vintages. Cognac is generally, like champagne, a standardised product made and marketed by big cognac houses. A Martell VSOP shall taste like Martell VSOP, no matter when it is produced. They blend to make their signature cognac, with as consitent taste from year to year. I find products with more identity and personality, marked by where and when it is made, more interesting.

Back in time, it must have been i the late 1980s or in the 1990s, I had an interesting armagnac experience. We were at a restaurant in Oslo. They had a good selection of armagnacs. We noticed that they had at least two different vintages from the same producer, I think it was 1963 and 1971 (I do not remember the producer). What we found a bit strange was that the younger, the 1971, was more expensive than the older, 1963. There was only way to find out if this could be justified: We had to have one of each vintage. The 1971 was more balanced and rounded, compared to the rawer and less balanced 1963. I had not imagined that a product made from a bland white wine, and then distilled, could taste so different from one vintage to another.

There are more standardised brand of armagnac, and we see vintage cognac from single producers. But the general picture is different.

Armagnac often has a rawer, I am tempted to say masculin taste, compared to cognac. Maybe it is result of the distillation, where armagnac is distilled once, cognac twice.

Armagnac har ofte en litt råere, jeg er fristet til å si mer maskulin smak enn cognac, noe som antageligvis kan tilskrives at armagnac destilleres en gang, mens cognac vanligvis destilleres to ganger.

At Labastide d’Armagnac a chapel and a santuary for cyclists, Notre-Dame des Cyclistes. I came acorss this by chance when driving past the place a little more than a year ago. We saw the sign, turned in and stopped, without knowing anything about the place.

The chapel is all that remains of a 12th-century fortress of the Knights Templar. The Château de Géou was razed by the Black Prince in 1355.

On 22 August 1958, Father Joseph Massie, pastor of Créon-d’Armagnac, Mauvezin-d’Armagnac and Lagrange, was inspired by the chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo in Italy to make a similar chapel for cyclists. On 18 May 1959, Pope John XXIII agreed to make the old chapel a National Sanctuary of Cycling and Cyclists under the protection of the Virgin: Our Lady of cyclists (Notre-Dame des cyclistes). It has been turned into a museum, and many champions have donated jerseys to the museum. It is the last stage before the Pyrenees. But I do not think many riders will stop for a prayer before the mountains.

As many medieval towns, Labastide d’Armagnac has a nice square.

It is a nice place to sit down with a glass of armagnac.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 10. Périgueux — Bergerac

Warren Barguil believed he had won stage 9, and so did French TV. He was inverviewed as winner by French TV when he got the message that Rigoberto Uran had won. It is brutal to get this message on direct television, when you thought you were a winner. It was photo finish, but this time the pictures left no doubt. It was clear that Rigoberto Uran was first. Lesson to learn: Do not start a victory interview before the result is official. It was an impressive win by Rigoberto Uran, with only two gears.

There were horrible craches. Geraint Thomas has crashed four times in this Tour, and had to retire with broken collar bone after the last crash. The most shocking crash was Richie Porte down from Mont du Chat. As far as I have been able to fine information, the injuries are not as bad as one could fear after such a horrible crash. Fractured pelvis and fractured collarbone, but so bad as operation is needed. And of course a lot of roas rash. My undestanding is that they are wating for his condition so be stabele enough for him to be sent home. We can only hope for the best, and wish him a good recovery.

Stages like Sunday’s stage are brutal in many ways. With so much up and down, with not much in between the climbs, the sprinters do not get a chance to catch up with some of what they looses in the climbs. The main looser this time was FDJ. I cannot understand their decision to sacrifice three riders to give the captain company when he was ill and it was obvious that he would not be able to finish within the time limit. Thanks to that, FDJ lost four riders on this stage.

Today is another flat stage. Normally, I would say that it will be another bunch sprint. The GC-contenders will save energy for the Pyrenees, and their teams will not do much work on the two flat stages before the next mountain stages. The sprint teams will have to do the work to control the stage. But it is the second week and the first stage after the rest day. Maybe a break away will make it to the finish on this stage.

We have moved from the mountains in the east, to the forests in the west.

After the rest day, the riders start in Perigeux in Dordogne, in the distrct called Perigord. It is a place well worth a visit. I was there a little more than a year ago. We cycled, but it was only relaxed rides on forest roads and some paths. In the culinary world, Dordogne is known for products from ducks and geese, like Confit de Canard and Foie gras. And for truffes.

Perigord is often divided into four part, each given a colour: Pergord Vert (green), Perigord Blanc (white), Perigord Noir (black) and Perigord Pourpre (purple).

The departure town, Perigeurd, is in Perigord Blanc. The area got this name from the light limestone that dominates the areas. To the north is the foresty Perigord Vert, but we are not going there today.

The entire area where the riders will cycle today, has a lot to offer.

From Periguex the riders go to Perigord Noir. It is an area with large oak forests, known for its truffes. Here we also find Grotte de Lascaux, with its famous wall paintings. The world’s oldest artwork.

From here, the riders turn west towards Perigord Poupere. Poupre represents the colour of the vines in the autoumn. Here we find the wine district Bergeracois.

Kart av Cyril5555, Wikimedia common, CC BY-SA 3.0

Bordeaux did not get its position in the wine market just by producing the best wine. If we go back a few hundred years, before they had drained the soil properly, the wine from Bordueax was not very good. But Bordeaux has a strategic location, even more strategic then than now. Good from along the rivers that flow out in the sea at Bordaux, like Gironde, Dordogne and Lot, sent their good on boats down the rivers to be sold in, and resold from Bordeaux. The wine from up the rivers was better and had more body than the wines produced in Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, it was blended with Bordaux wine and sold as Bordeaux wine. It has also been said that the merchants in Bordeaux refused to ship wines from other regions, before all the Bordeaux wine was sold. By blending wine from among other regions, Bergerac, into Bordaux wine, Bordaux wine got a reputation for being better then the wine acutally produced in Bordaux. An the wines from the districts upstream remained unknown, as it usually was not sold under its own name.

I think of Bergerac first and foremeost as a red wine district. But they produce whie and rosé wines too, as they do in Bordeaux.

Bergerac rouge is made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is a fruity and rather light wine that should be drunk young.

Côtes-de-Bergerac is made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives a more structured wine. It is a wine that can be stored.

In Pecharmant they produce only red wine. The wines are made with a grape blend that more or less reflects the grape production in the area: . 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cot (Malbec). The wine has often been stored in oak barrels. It gives a fruity and generous wine that can be stored for some time. Of the red wines from the region, the wines from Pecharmant are often the best.

On Dordogne’s left bank, south of the town Bergerac, they produce the sweet white wine Monbazzillac. It is produced from the grapes Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon blanc. The micro climat in the area often causes the grapes to get noble rot, which is not really a rot, but a funghi that perforates the skin. The water evaoprates, giving a very concentrated must, high in sugar, just as in the more well konwn district Sauternes. som egentlig ikke er en råte, men en muggsopp. Skallet perforeres, slik at vannet fordamper. Resultatet er en konsentrert most med høyt sukkerinnhold, som i det mer kjente området Sauternes.

To the west of Monbazzilac is the area Saussignac where they produce a rather similar sweet wine, but not of the same quality as in Monbazzilac.

Wines from this area cannont compete with the top wines from Bordeaux. But we do not have to pay as much for the label, as we do when we buy a Bordaeax, also when we are buying wines that are not from the top producers. Wines from the area around Bergerac are very good wines, and they often give better value for money than the more famous wines from Bordeaux.

When the boat men had transported their goods down to Bordeaux, they often bought dried fish (cod), Stockfish, that came from Norway. We Norwegians love to find Norwegian connections. They hang it from the stern of their boats when rowing up the rivers, and when they returend home it was rehydrated so it was eatable. They mix it with mashed potatoes and walnut oil, to a dish called Estofinade.

The  World Atlas of Wine

1845336895If you will have only one book on wine, “The World Atlas of Wine”, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson is the one you should have. It is a classic, and it is now in its seventh edtition. It is a beautiful book with nice maps and excellent content. It covers the entire world,  but still with an emphazis on "The Old World".

Buy it from Amazon UK or  Amazon US.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 9. Natuna — Chambréy

They did not have to measure differendes in 1/10 000s of a second yesterday. And in France they are enthusiastic about another French stage win.

Today, the riders are facing hard climbs. The final part of this stage is more or less the same as stage 6 in this year’s Criterium du Dauphiné. Those who rode this race may have an advantage when knowing the ascent, and even more the technical descent from Mont du Chat realtively fresh in memory. But the stage is still very different. In Dauphiné the riders had been over a third category before climing Mont du Chat, with a fourth category before they started the HC-climb. Today the riders have been over one second category, two third category and two HC before they start the last climb.

I cycled along the Rhône river from the start in the Swiss Alps to the Mediterrenian se last summer. Part of my route followed the route the riders will cycle today. But my stage was “only” 115 km, compared to the TdF stage of 181,5 km. And more important: I followed the river as much as possible, and did not climb the mountains. Our routes meet at Bassy, where the rides cross the river, or rather rivers Les Usses. From there we cycled more or less the same route to Seyssel, where I had planned to stay over night, but I could not get a room. It is anice place.

It was at this hotel I tried to get a room, but it was fully booked.

Here the riders cross over to the right bank, and start the climb to Col de la Biche and further on to Grand Colombier. I stayed on the bike path along the river, on the left bank.

20160624105626Jeg fulgte Circuit des vignoblbes de Savoie.

20160624111016The riders are climbing Grand Colombier the same way as last year, but the descent is different. Our routes crosses at this roundbout just outside Culoz.

I am sure it will be decorated with a bike this year as well. The riders in the TdF keeps on the main road, but I followed the cycling path at the same side of the Rhône to Cressin Rochefort. From here, I continued along the Rhône, while the riders cross the river and start the climb to Mont du Chat before they ride down to Chambéry.

But I have to stop playing with my memories, and get back to the Tour.

Between the mountains, we are for the most part in the rather unknown wine region Bugey, between Jura and Savoie. Bugey got AOP-classification in 2011. The wines from Bugey will often have a geogrephical name after the designation Bugey.


We can start with the wine that is calle Bugey, with no other names added. It can be produced in the entire area. They produce red, white and rosé, as well as white and rosé sparkling wine.

The white wine is made with 70% chardonnay. In addition they can use the grapes alligoté, altesse, jacquère, mondeuse blanche and pinot gris.

The red wine is made from gamay, mondeuse noire and pinot noir.

The rosé shal have at least 70% gamay and/or pinot noir. It is said in the criterias that it shall be white juice from gamay, meaning that it cannot be skin contact during the fermentation, and that the colour must come from pinot noir. In addition, they can have mondeuse noir, pinot gris and poulsard. I do not know the process for producing this wine, as it seems to be a blend of black/red grapes, white jucie from black/red grapes, as well as pink grapes.

White sparkling wine shall have at least 70% chardonnay, jacquère and molette. In addition it can be aligoté, altesse, gamay noir (white juice), mondeuse blanche, mondeuse noire, pinot gris, pinot noir and poulsard.

Sparkling wine shall be made with second fermentation in the bottle, and shall rest at least nine months at the remains of yeast etc (sur lie).

As I have said, one can some places put a geographical name after Bugey. The first such area we come to is Bugey-Cerdon. If I have got it right, which I do not guarantee, the cool climate and long winters stopp fermentation, and the second fermentation starts in the spring, without rebottling. This wine shall be labeled “Methode Ancestrale”. It is a sparkling wine very low in alcohol.

For the other geographica areas, there are in genereal stricter criterias when it comes to grapes, with fewer allowed additional grapes, compared to the basic Bugey.

In the area Roussette du Bugey, they make white wine from the grape Altesse, or Roussette as it called locally. THis is a grape I think of as typical for Savoie.

It is not easy to find wine from Bugey outside the region. And if I shall be honest, there are no reason to search for it, unless you are interested in tasting the wine. Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir are grapes they grow many places, where they usually give better wines, at least based on my rather limited experience with wines from Bugey. Rousette de Bugey may have a more distinct character, but I have to admit that I have not tasted it. But Rousette de Savoie is a good and interesting wine, proving that Rousette is a good and interesting grape.

After the riders have crossed the final mountain, they arrive in Savoie. Savoie is in my opinion an underestimated wine region. The production is small. We can go straight to the finish, and find a wine from Cluse de Chambéry in Savoie.

Cluse de Chambéry is divided into six crus.

Chignin is, according to Grand Atlas des vignobles de France, regarded as the wine capital in Savois.

The area Cru Chignin-Bergeron is, still according to Grand Atlas des vignobles de France, the very best area. But the production is small, only 315 hl per year, which should be aroung 50.000 bottles.

North of Chignin we find Cru Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré. It is 20 ha where they produce 460 hl or a little less than 70.000 bottles per year.

Further north is Cru Monterminod, which is eve smaller. The yearly production is only 150 hl or 22.500 bottes. This is a very sought after wine.

Further west are to larger areas, Cru Apremont and Cru Abymes, where they produce respectively 26.000 and 20.000 hl a year.

After this stage, there is a well deserved rest day.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
Amazon US

How to find the best French wines?

I could have added: The best wines in a region or in a category. When I am searching for good wine producers in France, be it to find wines along the Tour de France roue, or wines I would like to taste and maybe buy, I use three books to orient myself. There are (too) many wine producers offering wine tasting. We cannot just visit them randomly. Then we risk to taste a lot of uinteresting wines, and miss the better wines. When I visit a producer and taste their wines, I feel a pressure to buy some wine, despite that I know I can just say merci beaucoup, and leave. It is necessarry to do some research, and find the wine producers to visit. For this purpose, I use the three books. There are three books, published yearly. Now I use the 2017-editions. I always have problems deciding which is the better one, and end up buying all three. Some of the books are available in Kindle, versions, but for this kind of books, I prefer the paper versions. I have to add that these books are in French only.

Le Guide des Meilleurs vins de France

This book is published by the Wine Magazine La Revue du Vin de France. This is in practise my favourite, and the the book in which I start searching first. But I cannot say that it is better than the others

This year's edition covers  1120 producers and  6592 wines.

Buy from

Le Guide Hachette des vins

For me, this is the book I consult as number two. I have no other explanation than that this was the second of these book I got to know. It includes more wines than Le Guide des Meilleurs vins de France

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Guides des vins. Bettane + Desseauve

I started to buy this book to have all three. As it was the third book I got to know, it has become the third book I consult. But this is a habit, more than a result of critical evaluation.

Buy from

Guides to reasonably pirced wines

There are guidebooks for reasonably priced wines. I have bought a few of them, but has stopped buying them. This does not mean that I am snobbish (or rich), and only drink expensive wines. Most of the wines I am drinking is reasoably priced. Reasonable wines are not excluded from the books mentioned. If there is a resonably priced wine of high quality, you will find them in these books. But I am searching for good wines, not cheap wines. I am not trying to locate a producer because of its cheap wines. Then I choose one of the wines I find in the supermarkets when I am in France.

Some Wine Magazines

In addition to these books, I read about wine in quality newspapers back home in Norway. But I see not point in mentioning the Norwegian newspapers in this English language version. I also read regularly two French wine magazines,  La Revue du Vin de France and Terre de Vins. The latter is published in Languedoc, and has a kind of southern profile. I also read the English wine magazin Decanter.

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia


Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 8. Dole — Station des rousses

Can anyone tell who was first here? I cannot see any difference. If there ever can be a draw, with both  crossing the line at the same time, it must be this. On the other hand. Marcel Kittel had a very strong sprint, and had higher speed than Edvald Boasson Hagen. 20 cm shorter, and a clear win to Edvald Boasson Hagen, 20 cm longer, and a clear win to Marcel Kittel.

Stage 8 goes from Dole tol Staion des Rousses. It has a count down before the hard climbs tomorrow, with three climbs in this order: Third, second and first category.

After yesterday’s stage through Côte-de-Nuits, the next stage has to be anti climactic. We are going into Jura. Jura is not on the same level as Burgynd, but they make very good wines that do not get the attention they deserve. Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 8. Dole — Station des rousses

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 7. Troyes — Nuits-Saint-Georges

Marcel Kittel had a strong and impressive sprint yesterday. And we Norwegians loved to see strong riding from Vegard Stake Laengen.

Today is another flat stage that will probably end in a bunch sprint.

This is the wine stage of this year’s Tour. We start in Champagne, but I will not add anything to what I wrote yesterday. But as an aperitif, nothing is better than champagne.

The stage passes not far from Chablis. On drier stages, we would be happy to make detours longer than this, to find a wine as good as chablis. But today, we don’t do that. Today’s stage ends in the heart of Burgundy, and we go to the end. I see no reason to stop before we get there. In Burgundy, they produce red wine from Pinot Noir and white from Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Chardonny do not get any better than they to in Burgundy, at least if we keep champagne out of the comparision, and we have to pay for the quality. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do not get more exepensive than they do in Burgundy. They also make a very good sparkling wine, Crémant de Borgogne, but I will only cover still wines.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 7. Troyes — Nuits-Saint-Georges

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 6. Vesoul — Troyes

No surprise with victory to Fabio Aru. The big question now is: Will Chris Froome stay in yellow to Paris? It may be a bit earlier than he wanted, to avoid spending too much time on the official program the leader of the race has to be part of, every day. From now, the other GC-contenders will have to attack, while Sky and Chris Froome can sit back and wait and see.

Today’s stage is flat, and will probably end in another mass sprint. The Tour will never be the same without Peter Sagan. I still think he was punished too hard.

I am closing the circle. Stage 12 in 2009, from Tonnerre to Vittel, passed through this area, Aube. French TV often cover life along the stage, before the riders arrive. Le doyen of French sport journalism, Gerhard Holtz, presented champagne from this area. At that time I did not know that they produced champagne in this area, and I got the idea to explore wines along the Tour de France stages. In 2010, i started the blog series “Les vins du Tour de France”, in Norwegian, despite the French title. Now we are back in this area again.

with Côte des Bar som det viktigste produksjonsområdet, Fransk TV pleier å ha innslag fra livet og aktiviteter langs etappen, før syklistene kommer. På denne etappen var Gerhard Holtz her og smakte på og snakket om champagne. På det tidspunktet var jeg ikke klar over at man kunne produsere champagne også i dette området. Da fikk jeg ideen om å se hva slags vin man finner langs de ulike etappene, og serien “Les vins du Tour de France” så dagens lys i 2010. Nå er vi tilbake i det samme området. Man skal aldri la sjansen til å drikke champagne gå fra seg. Så selv om vi kommer tilbake til champagne under finalen i Paris, så kan vi ta et glass eller to i dag også.

Champagne is a sparkling wine made from grapes grown in designated areas within Champagne. They are making sparkling wine many places, and many produce good sparkling wines. But only sparkling wine from Champagne, made according to the rules for making champagne, kan be called champagne. Champagne starts as a still, white wine. It is usualy stored for a long time. TMost of the champagne we are buying, from well known and wll marketed brands, are blended from many such wines, often from different vintages. The blending, or making of the cuvées is a difficult process that requires a lot of expreince and great skills. The cuvées will change a lot during the second fermentation, and the blenders must be able to forsee the end result.

Then some must and yeast is added, and the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. It is stored for long time, sur lie, meaning on the remains of dead yeasts and other by products from the frementation. The bottles are slowly rotated and turned uside down, som that the yeast etc sinks down to the neck. The neck is frozen, the bottle is opened and the pressure in the bottle shoot out the little frozen block. Then some wine is added, the bottles are corked and labeled, and after being stored for another few months, they are ready for the market.

The ares where today’s stage ends, has not been fully accepted as part of the good champagne company, even though they have the right to call their wines champagne. In 1911, there was an uproar among the champagne producers further north in Champagne, in them more well known towns Reims and Epernay. They wanted to exclude Aube from the rank of chamåagne producers. They were relegated to some kind of a second class status. It was not before 1927 that they again were accepted as proper champagne producers. In Aube, they mainly produced grapes that were delivered to the champagne houses in Epernay and Reims.

Champagne is made from tree different grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. In Aube they mainly gros Pinot Noir. The production is 87% Pinot Noir, 7% Cardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. 50% of the Pinot Noir grown in Champagne is grown in Aube.

The producers of champagne are usually divided into two main groups: NM: Négociant-Manipulant and RM: Récoltant-Manupulant. There are more, but we leave it with that. An NM may grow their own grapes, and buy grapes from other growers. A RM will grow their own grapes and use them in their production of champagne. Most of the well known champagne houses are NMs. Few of them would admit that they were buying grapes from Aube, or they would only admit that they used small quantities. They were looking down at the producers in Aube, and still regarded them as second rate growers.

Geographically, Aube is closer to Chablis than to the champagne towns Reims and Epernay. There has been a very intersting development among at least som of the producers in Aube. In the best area in Aube, Côte-des-Bar, they are more inspired by Burgundy than the producers further north in Champagne. The key word is Terroir.

The well known champagne houses want their champagne to have consistent taste from year to year. A standard, non vintage Moêt & Chandon shall taste like Moêt & Chandon, and not have the character from a grape grow. They say that champage is too much recipies and too little terroir. They want to change that.

Even though they mainly grow Pinot Noir, they also produce excellent Chardonnay, in particular in Montgeueux, a little west of today’s finish town, Troyes. The major champagne houses have been talking down this area. But there are exceptions.The late Daniel Thibault, from the two Reims based chamapgne houses Charles- and Piper-Heidesieck, was a strong admirer of chardonnay from Montgeueux, which he called “Champagne’s Montrachet”. For those who do not know Montrachet: It is the top of white wines from Burgundy.

Tom Stevenson writes about Montgeuex:

“The hill Montegeuex on the western side of Troyes is perhaps the trendiest source of grapes in Champagne at the moment. The pure chalk soil, very different from the rest of Aube, produces wonderfully structured, spicy and mineral Chardonnay.”

In general, I find products with a character form their place of origin more interesting than standardised brand name products. It does not mean that the major champagne houses do not produce good champagne, or that champagne from small producers always are better. But wines with character of terroir are always more interesting. Often, small producers give better value for money. They do not spend as much on marketing as the major champagne houses. And in the end, it is us, the consumers, who pay for this marketing when we buy the products.

I learn something new all the time. This is why I do this, and this is what makes it interesting to search for wines along the stages in Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. In 2009, I learned that this area is part of Champagne, and that they do produce champagne here. I did not study this area in any depth at that time, and my impression was still that Aube and Côte-des-Bar were second rate producers who had worked their way into the good company, but were still not invited to sit at the main table. Now that we have returned to this area, I find it much more interesting.

Working with the stages in Tour de France is frustrating in the way that the stages are published only about a month before the start. They publish an overview with start and finishing town in october the year before, and a very rough overview of the stages. This, in contrast to Giro d’Italia, who publishes maps of the stages in october the year before. It is not possible to go into the details of the stages before the beginning of June. When I find wine districts that are unknown to me, or that turns out to be much more interesting than I was aware of, there is not enough time to do empirical studies and actually taste the wines. (Many of the lesser known wines are often hard to find outside their home districts.) I have to rely on litterature, and note that these are wines I have to taste when I get a chance to do so.

I was in Champagne a few months ago. But I was in Reims and Eperany, and my impression is that these are not the places to look for champagne from Côte-des-Bar. These are champagnes from this area I have noted as interesting, and will taste when there is an oportunity.

New York Times name these producers (in an article from 2011, and a lot can have happened since that time):

  • Céderic Bouchard
  • Donson & Lepage
  • Drappier
  • Fleury
  • Jacques Lassaigne
  • Marie-Courtin
  • Jean Velut
  • Vouette & Sorbéee

In addition to these, Tom Stevenson mention these:

  • Horiot
  • Serge Mathieu

The  World Atlas of Wine

1845336895If you will have only one book on wine, “The World Atlas of Wine”, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson is the one you should have. It is a classic, and it is now in its seventh edtition. It is a beautiful book with nice maps and excellent content. It covers the entire world,  but still with an emphazis on "The Old World".

Buy it from Amazon UK or  Amazon US.

Tom Stevenson: Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & sparkling wine

1402772246This book is the international refernce when it comes to sparkling wines. The title says Champagne & sparkling wine, and it should come as no surprise that champage get the broadest coverage. Og the book'a 500 pages, 150 are dedicated to champagne, 50 to a general introduction to sparkling wine, and 300 pages to sparkling wines from other regions than Champagne. More than 1600 wines are rated.

Buy it from Amazon UK or Amazon US.


The Oxford Companion to Wine

0198705387If you want to have a more encylopedic book on wines, Jancis Robinsons and Julia Child: The Oxford Companion to Wine is the one to have. It is an encyclopedia of wine, with articles on not everything, but as close as you can get in one volume. It is written by on of the world's leading experts on wine.

I have the third edition, published in 2006. It is now in its foruth edition, published in 2015. A lot has happened in the wine business since 2006. So maybe I should get myself a copy of the most recent edition. It is available in hardcover edition and Kindle edition. When reading a book from beginning to end, I like Kindle. But when jumping around from one article to another, I prefer the paper version. An e-version of a book like this should be organized like a database, not as a "book".

Order from Amazon US: Kindle edition, or Hardcover edition.

Order from Amazon UK: Kindle edition, or Hardcover edition.


Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia