Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 16. Le Puy-en-Velay — Romans-sur-Isère

In my opinion, to ride from the rest and win solo, like Bauke Molema did yesterday, is the most classy way to wine a bike race. Hat off for Bauke Molema.

We are now entering the third week of the tour, and there are less than 30 seconds between the first four riders. It will not be easy to take the yellow jersey away from Chris Froome. But nothing is decided. A puncture or another technical problem at a crucial point in the stage, or a crash (even if you are not crashing, but only get stuck behind it), can cost more than 30 seconds. Chris Froome has said that i panicked when he had to change his back wheel on Sunday, being afraid that he would not make it up to the group with the other GC-contenders.

When looking at the profile of today’s stage, we may think that a break away may succeed and go in. But unless they get strong wind, it can be hard wind in the Rhône valley, a bunch sprint is most likely. This is one of only two chances left for the sprinters before Paris, and they will probably not let riders get away. As a Norwegian, I am of course hoping for Edvald Boasson Hagen or Alexander Kristoff, but I hold another win for Marcel Kittel as more likely.

A good way to learn to know new wines, is to order the tasting menu with wine pairing at good restaurants. Even if we think we know a little bit about wine, we have to accept that they are professionals. We are amateurs. They taste more wines than we amateurs will ever get the chance to taste, in their search for good wines. They know the wines and they know the food the wines shall go with. I have leared to know many good an interesting wines this way. It is not difficult to find goo wine along today’s stage. But I make a detour some 60-70 km to the south, to include some wines that in mine opinion deserves attention.

This stage goes to a large extent in the departement Ardèche. For many of us, Ardèche does not make us think of good wines. But one reason is that many good wines from Ardèche are known as Rhône wines, not as Ardèche wines. Saint-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray are all produced in the part of Ardèche that is situated along the Rhône river. We will come back to these, but first we will open a few other bottles from Ardèche.

When we a few years ago had dinner at the excellent little restaurant “Qui Plume la Lune” in Paris, we ordered their tasting meny (I do not think they had à la carte), with wine pairing. The food and the wines were excellent.

The first two wines were white wines from Ardèche. The first was a Chardonnay from Louis Latour. Grande Ardèche Chardonnay 2009. Louis Latour is a respected wine producer from Burgundy. They started to look for other places where they could produce a Chardonnay of good quality and at a more reasonable price than white Burgundy. They also wanted to grow grapes a place with more stable climate, to avoid major changes from one vintage to another. Tehyn wanted to procude a Chardonnay in Macon style, they did not aim for the very top of Burgundy whites. In 1979, they landed in Ardèche, where they have built up a production. This wine is one of the better Chardonnys I have tasted, made outside of Burgundy. The Grande Ardèche Cardonnay is aged 8-10 months in oak barrels. If I hade blind tasted this wine, I would probaly have placed in Burgundy and had given it a high score.

Good sommeliers at good restaurants do not go for very expensice wines. They try to find good wines that give value for money. Grande Ardèche Chardonnay sells for less than 15 € a bottle. Louis Latour also produce a more reasonably priced Adrèche Chardonnay which is not aged in barrels, a Voignier and a wine which is a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. But I have only tasted their Grande Ardèche Chardonnay so far. You can read more about these and other wines from Ardèche in the article “Jefford on Monday: The two million bottle bet – and beyond” in Decanter.

The other white was produced by Sylvain Bock, who makes nature wines. Tehy use no sulphur or other chemicals in their production. It was a wine with the rather cryptic name Ne fais pas sans blanc”. It is made from 2/3 chardonnay and 1/3 grenache blanc. It is not barrel aged. It has a very fresh and “clean” taste. It is not an expensive wine. I have seen it on sale 11,60€.

Both producers are located in the Alba la Romaine, which is an old roman town. They produce 60% red and 40% white wine in this area. The wines are classified at the IGP level. Sometimes the more interesting wines are classified on this level, as it is not as strict as AOP, and allows more experimentation.

But we have to get back to today’s stage. The stage is crossing the Rhône river. The Rhône valley is a rift valley between Massif Central on the right bank to the west, and The Alps on the left bank to the east. The geologhy on the two sides are rather different. The Rhône district is often divided into two main districts. The Northern Rhône, or Rhône Septentrional as it is called in France, goes from Côte-Rôtie near Vienne in the north to Valence in the south. The Southern part, which we will not visit during this stage, is called Rhône Méridonal, goes from Montélimar in the north, to a bit south of Avignon in the south.

Along the Northern Rhône, almost all the interesting wine areas are located on the right bank. Here it is gneiss and granite. Today’s stage comes in to the town Tournon-sur-Rhône through the wine district Saint-Joseph. 90% of the production is red wine, made from Syrah. For their whites, the use the grapes that are common in Rhône: Marsanne and Roussanne. We think of Rhône as a red wine region, but give their whites a try, too!

From Tournon-sur-Rhône the stage crosses the Rhône over to Tain Hermitage. Tain Hermitage is a small, and on the outset not a very exciting town. But it has two things everyone who is interested in good food and good wine will appreciate: : Hermitage wine (and the more reasonable cousin Crosez Hermitage), and Valrhona chocolate.

Valrhona chocolate and Hermitage wine are by themselves very good. But I do not recommend to take them together. As I happened to have Hermitage in my glass, and a dark Valrhona chocolate at hand, I decided to give them a try, to have some practical experience I could refer to. My Hermitage was a 2003, where the tannins were rounded off. They got the worst out of each others when combined. It is a waste of good chocolate and good wine to have them together.

Wine and chocolate is a difficult combination. It ismuch bitterness in chocolate, particularly in dark chocolate. The bitterness is there, even when it is covered up by sugar. A wine with bitterness (or high acidity) will emphasise the bitterness in the chocolate. And the bitterness in the chocolate will emphasise the bitterness in the wine. In my opinion, choclate calls for a sweet, red wine. I would usually choose a sweet, red wine made mainly from Grenache, like a Banyuls or Maury (as Mas Amiel). But these are wines from the western part of Lnaguedoc-Roussillon, and we are not going there now.

I wrote above that we find the more interesting wines i Northern Rhône along the right bank. We are now in the exception. The hill Hermitage and the area Crosez-Hermitage is a piece of gneiss and granite. Geologhically, it belongs to the right bank. But the river has found another way around it, leaving it on the left bank.

Hermitage is one of the great French wines. It must be made from a minium of 85% Syrah, but they often used more. An aged Hermitage is Syrah at its very best. It is a strong bodied, and in many’s opinion a masculine wine, which can be aged for a long time.

Crosez-Hermitage er is a more reasonably priced wine. It is a very good wine to game.

Chapoutier, Paul Jaboulet and Guigal are very good producers in this region.

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

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

 

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