Category Archives: Languedoc

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 12: Montpellier — Mont Ventoux

Those who had betted on Chris Froome and Peter Sagan sprinting each others for a stage win on a stage where everyone expected a bunch sprint, would have gotten high odds.

SIMG_7354_DxO

This year, Chris Froomehas proved himself as a complete rider. We knew he could climb. We also know that he can do good time trial. This year he has also shown that he can win on descents, and that he can sprint. I think many of the GC-contenders are better sprinters than we usualle see. They are racing to win the tour, not to win stages. Then it does not really make sense to take the risk of competing in a bunch sprint. But why the other temas could let a break away with Chris Froome and Peter Sagen, with one helper each, go 15 km before the finish, I do not understand. Maybe they did not have the power to go after them?

So to today’s stage. This is the 14th of July, the French National Day. This is the stage every French rider is dreaming of winning. I expect to see some attacs from Thibaut Pinot today.

Now we know that there will not be a top finish at Mont Ventoux. The wind has been blowing hard, and the weather forcast says even stronger winds today. Not only will it be very hard for the riders, but the organizers will also have technical problem in this weather conditions. The finish will be at Chalet Renard, where the road comes out of the wood. At talked with former pro cyclist and Tour de France stage winner, Dag Otto Lauritzen, in Montpellier. In his opinion, the hardest part of Mont Ventoux is the part up tu Chalet. But when shortened by 6 km, the climb will be shorter, thus not as hard.

I guess that many parked their campers along the road up to Mont Ventoux several days ago. They have been sitting there, waiting for the riders that will not come. I am sure many of them are disappointed by the decision.

TdF2016_12

In Montpellier, the vineyards go into the city. Even though the stage does noe pass directly by it, I start with Château Flaugergues. It is really in the city. If you don’t mind walking, I will say it is within walking distance from the city cnetre. Or it is at least not far away if you use one of the City bikes. Or you can take Tramway no 1 to the shopping centre Odysseum, from where it is only a short distance.

Chateau_de_flaugergues

They have a nice location, a beuatyful garden and good wine. Could we ask for more?

We are still in Gres de Montpellier, as we were at the end of yestareday’s stage. Within this area, we have the area Mejanelle east of Montpellier. Some of the wines from Château de Flaugergues are classified as AOP Mejanelle.

The stage continues in the direction of Sommieres. On thir way there, the riders pass between Saint-Drézery and Saint-Christol. To be honest, it seems to go through Saint-Christol, but I include both.

In Saint-Drézery is one of my favourites: Château Puech Haut. They have good wines, and it is a very nice place to visit. What more cout we hope for from a wine producer? The history of Château Puech-Haut resembles the histories of many other good producers.  Entrepreneurship. Gérard Bru came from business. After his company was aquired by a larger company, he bought this property. There was no wineprocution there at this time. But he was convinced that it was very well suited for wine production, and the history has proven him right.

Their main product is red wine, and Languedoc is first and foremost a red wine region. But this time I will focus on white wine. It was from their white wines I discovered Château Puech Haut. I probably got it recommended at a restaurant, but I do not remember my first encounter with this wine. I liked it, and it was different form much of the other whie wines we are drinking.

Thir white wines are to a large extent made form the grapes Roussanne and Marsanne, which are two aromatic grapes producing aromatic wines. I like aromatic white wines. Try some white wines made from these grapes, as an alternative to Riesling, Chadonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and all the other common whtie wine grapes. Château Puech Haut is a good place to start.

Château Puech Haut have two main serieses of wines: Prestige and Tête de Belier. Tête de Belier is a ram’s head, which is the wine’s symbol. A ram’s head in limestone were found in the soil when they started working it. Of these two series, Tête de Belier is the better and more expensive. In addition to the wines mentioned, they also produce some other wines.

Saint-Christol is a bit to the south of today’s stage. It is a rocky area, that also benefits form cooling winds from the ocean. They mainly produce red wine from Mourvèdre.

In my opinion, one shall alway serve water with wine, with or without bubble. We drink wine for the taste, water for the thirst. Today, it should be water with bubbles, to be more specifig: Perrier. Not long after the riders have passed Somières, they are passing through Vergèze, where the source of Perriers, and also their botteling facility is located.

About here, we come into the wine district Costières de Nîmes. It is located where Languedoc meets Rhône. It is a bit unclear it this wine should be classified as Languedoc or Rhône. In some publications, for instance Grand Atlas des Vignoble de France, it is placed under Languedoc. Other will say it is Rhône. Some years ago, Languedoc wines had a rather bad reputation. Maybe they moved these wines to Rhône, to get it into the more respected classification Rhône.

A lot have changed since this time. Languedoc has developed, and the producers prioritize quality. We can still get good quality wines from Languedoc at reasonable prices.

Unfortunately, many wine journalists still stick to old reputation. I think many of them just continue this, without investing the time necessary to learn more about Languedoc wines.

Today, Languedoc is France’s most dynamic wine regions, with many young, educated and ambitious producers. As I told yesterday, I was recently at a winemaker’s dinner with the owner of Domaines Paul Mas, Jean-Claude Mas. They are producing wine many places, including Costieres de Nîmes. We were served a very good Costieres de Nîmes. I asked him if he thought of Costiere de Nîmes as Languedoc or Rhône. Without hesitation, he said: It is Languedoc.

But the producers’ banners clearly states: Vallée du Rhône.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before I leave this: The wine is the same if we call it Languedoc or Rhône. But the classification has practical implications when we are searching for the wine or information about the wine. Nevertheless, it is from where Languedoc meets Rhône. Wines from Costiéres de Nîmes cannot be sold as Côte du Rhone, making it in that sense different from most other wines from Vallée du Rhône.

I read one place that wine districts in Rhône are protected from the winds from the sea, byt the Alpilles, small mountains or hills going east – west across the southern part of the Rhône valley.

converted PNM file

To be honest, I do not get the point here. In the southern part of Rhône, it can be hot. I would think that some cooling wind from the sea will be to the benefit of the wines. In the winter, the ocean winds are mild, at least milder than the cold Mistral wind that comes down the Rhône Valley, maily in the winter and spring.

The stages goes through Beaucaire, where it crosses the Rhône river over to Tarascon.

SIMG_6429_DxO

A bit further into Provence, we come to the wine district Luberon, shortly after the intermediary spirnt. The border is the river Durance. Here they are producing mainly red wine in the mediterreainian style. But Luberon is one of the districts in southern Rhône where they produce a fairly large proportion of white wines, from the grapes Grenache blanc, Clairette, Vermentino and Rousanne.

Here the stage turns north to Ventoux, at the foot of Mont Ventoux. 85% of the production is red wine. They also produce som eroosé and some whithe wins that have been said to be secret. For more information, see Decanter travel guide: Ventoux. I think Venoutx should be the wine of the day.

But having said that, this is the 14th of July, France’s national day, Regardless of where we are, I think Champagne is a proper wine for this day.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 11: Carcassonne — Montpellier

Being Norwegian, I was of course hoping for Edvald Boasson Hagen yesterday.

Today is a another flat stage. The Montpellier finishes tend to be sprints. I will get on my bike and go into Montpellier to se the finish.

TdF2016_11Languedoc is my region i France. It is the region with the highest production of wine, meaning that we have no problem finding wines. The challenge is which ones to choose. It is an area that hade a reputation for for producing large quantities of uninteresting wine. Quantity had priority over quality. This is no longer the case. Today we find wines of high quality, still at favourable prices. Languedoc is the most dynamic, and one of the more interesting wine regions in France.

We start in the medieval town Carcassonne, which is one of the places one have to visit in this area. Carcassonne is strategically located where the passage between the Atlantic and the Mediteranian is most narrow.  They collected toll on all the goods that were passing through.

WIMG_1110_RAW_DxO

We stick to wine, despite many interesting detours into other subjects. From Carcassonne, the stage goes in the direction north-east.

The stage is following the fault along Montagne Noir, the south-western part of Massif Central. We are comming into the wine district Minerve or Minervois, a 60 km long and 20 km wide south facing amphi, stretching from Carcassonne  in the west, to Narbonne in the east. It is located between 50 to 350 meter above sea level. It is mainly a district for red wines, but some whites are also produced.

The district is divided into six subdistricts, in addition to  Minervois-La Liverne, which has its own AOP classification. The first sub-district, after having left Carcassonne, is Le Clamoux. It is rater low, get a lot of sun and has a clear Meidterrainian charater. Dette ligger ganske lavt, They mainly produce Grenache and Carignan.

Located a little closer to the mountains (Montagne Noir) is Les Côtes Noire. The stage goes mainly between Le Clamoux and Les Côtes Noir. The district have the advantage of higher altitude, and is influenced by the air from the Atlantic ocean, comming between the Pyrenees and Massif Central. The soil has a lot of slate. The dominating grapes are Syrah and Grenache. But they also grow the white/green grapes Marsanne og Rousanne.

From here, we continue into Minervois-La Liverne. This is the heart of Monervois, in the ara called Le Petit Causse, at the foothill of Montagne Noir.  They produce mainly Carignan, but also Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. The wines are elegant, with a clear mediterranian character. They also procue white wine, from the grapes Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache blanc.

Further to the east is Le Causse. Causse is the local neme of the limestone plateus that are common in this region.  Here they mainly produce Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. But it is also the area for the sweet Muscat-de-Saint-Jean de Minervois. It is located higher than the other areas in the region producing Muscat wines, whigh gives longer time for ripening, and more complex wines.

The village Minerve, is one of the more beautifful villages in France. It is located on a cliff, at the confluence of two rivers. It is a place to visit if you are in this part of France.  In their Tour de France issue, the French cycling magazine “Vélo Magazine” asked the cyclist Clément Koretzky, who is form the region, where he would prefer to be as a spectator to this stage, and he said Minerve.

SIMG_3586_DxO_1

The stage does not go through the two lower areas ofi Minervois, L’Argent Double and Les Serres, meaning that we will not cover them this time.

There is no official classification of producers or vineyards into crus within the AOP or AOP-village classifications in Languedoc. But many have tried to set up lists of “Grand Crus”.  La Revue du Vin de France has recently made a list of first, second and third crus. THey placed the Minervois producer Domaine Jean-Baptiste Senat in third cru. In an earlier tasitng, they were prixing  L’Oustal Blanc, in particular their white Prima Donna.

SIMG_3825_DxO_1

From Minervois we continue into Saint-Chinian.

The riders are passing on the road to the left, shortly after having done the second and latest climb at this stage (fourth category). The picture is from mid April, and the vines will have grown a lot since that time.

SIMG_3833_DxO_1

La Revue du Vin de France emphesize Domaine Yannick Pelletier in their nominations of Grand crus from 2011. When they are dividing producers into three crus, Mas Champart is placed in second cru. Other producers mentioned are Domaine Boire La Vitarelle, Domaine les Éminades og Domaine Canet-Valette.

Yannick Pelletier represents some of what makes Langeudoc a dynamic and interesting region. After having studied wine production at the University, he bought several hectars of vineyard at the age of 29. He produced his first wine when he was 30. Young and ambitious people can still buy vineyards or land that can be converted to vineyards at a not too high price, and can produce good wines. Yannick Pelletier is not the only one who have done this, but not all will achieve as good results as him.

View towards the town Saint-Chinian.

SIMG_3838_DxO_1

After Saint Chinian, the stage goes in the direction of the sea. We make our next drinking break in Pezenas, where there is an intermediary sprint.

Pezenas is the town of the playwright Molières. Molière was born in Paris. But he travelled with a small theatrical troup, called ” l’Illustre Théâtre” in Languedoc. In Pzeneas they were well received, and they stayed there for a long time. The picture below is from Molière’s theater in Pezanas.

SIMG_2783_DxO

But we cannot stay at the theater for a long time, when there are so much wine to choose from..

In their nomination  Les Grandes Crus du Languedoc from 2011,  La Revue du Vin de France incluedes four producers from Pezenas:

  • Domaine la Garance
  • Domaine les Aurelles. When they are dividing the producers into three crus, these are placed in  second cru.
  • Prieuré Saint-Jean de Béban.
  • Domaine le Conete des Floris Carbonifère

The riders continue through Montagnac. Here we find the producer  Paul Mas. Paul Mas is a large producer, with vineyards many places in Languedoc, including Pezenas. In addition to wines sold under the label Paul Mas, they produce the series Arrogant Frog. They also produce wine in Costieres de Nîmes, which we will return to tomorrow. I include Paul Mas because they produce a wide variety of wines in several districts in Languedaoc, and because I hade the pleasure of meeting the owner, Jean-Claude Mas at a winemaker’s dinner in Oslo not too long ago, where we could taste many of their wines.

SIMG_3422_DxO

Despite the problem in this region is a luxurious problem of too much interesting wine, and what not to choose  along the stage, I will make a little detour, 7 km to the north-east. Here we find Domaine Peyre Rose. It is classified in second cru by  La Revue du Vin de France’. Domaine Peyre Rose is included in almost any list of the best wines from Languedoc. It is one of many wineproducers in the region run by a woman. The wineproducing women have their own association, Vinifilles, meaning the WIne Girls.

But not all wine girls are members, among them Marlène Soria, the owner of Domaine Peyre Rose. They make excellent wines. But I also like the story behind  Domaine Peyre Rose. Marlène Soria was real estate agent. She had the property on sale for a client. She liked it very well, and ended up buing it herself. She started wine procution mainly as a hobby, producing wine for herself, her family and friends. But rumours about her wines were spreading. She left the real estate trade, and started wine production for full time. Unfortunatley, they do not welcome visitors on a regular basis. Domaine Peyre Rose is rather high on the list of wine producers I would like to visit.

Back to the stage. The riders continues close to Abbaye de Valmagne. This is a monastry from 1257. If I have got it right, the monastry is still in operation as a monastry. But the reason for including it here, is taht in this building, classified as an historical monument, they produce wine and beer, and there is a restaurant. There are many reasons to make a stop here.

We are now only 35 km from the finish. The stages into Montpellier have usualle ended as mass sprints, and it is time for the sptingers and their teams to find their positions in the peloton. In Montpellier, the vineyards goes almost to the city limits. There are vineyards within walking distance from the stage finish.

We are comming into the wine district called Gres de Montpellier, which surrounds Montpellier. It means something like the gravel or stones of Montpellier. It is an area at low altitude, where it can be hot, but that also often have a cooling wind from the sea. The last part before the finish is Saint-Georges d’Orques. I am not quite sure about the meaning of the name, but the word “Orques” reminds med o “Lord of the Rings”.

I finish this off with a picture from one of the last vineyard the riders will pass through, where there is a large facility producing (burning and packaging) coffe, in the middle of the vineyard. Wine and then coffe, can be a good way to finish the day.

SIMG_4360_DxO

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia