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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

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