Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andéol — La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc

Yesterday was chaos. It was a right decision to move the finish down to Chalet Reynard. The wind was too hard. I was watching the stage on French TV. They had a reporter on the top, and he could hardly stand on his feet in the wind. They also showed some cyclists who were trying to get to the top. But they had trouble pushing their bikes in the wind. One had been blown off the road, and was taken to hospital. I know that  other TV-channels have had similar features. There is a video on  Facebook showing the weather conditions.

But if that was not enough, we had the incident near the finish, where Richie Porte crashed into a motorcylcle from French TV, Bauke Mollema crashed into Richie Porte, and Chris Froome into both of them. Another motorcycle that was behind, crashed into Chris Froome’s bike, and broke the frame. After a long wait, the jury decided to give Chris Froome and Richie Porte the same time as Bauke Mollema, which kept Chris Froome in the Yellow jersey. Bauke Mollema did also loose time in the incident, but his bike was not damaged so he could continue. It means that those who were behind and passed Richie Porte and Chris Froome, gained some time. I think it was a fair decision. Adam Yates, who was the virtual Yellow jersey holder until this decision, agreed. He said that this was not the way he would like to win the Yellow jersey. If he had gotten the Yellow jersey because of the incident, it would have been tainted. The same would be the case if someone should win the Tour partly because of this.

Today’s stage is a 37,5 km individual time trial. It is a hard time trial, with a climb at the beginning, a decent and another climb near the end.

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We are in Ardeche. Most people will not associate the name Ardeche with wine, which is rather unfair to Ardeche. Ardeche is more known for chestnuts.

John Kaare Hoversholm and Finn Erik Rognan produce a series of videos kalled Kultour, for the Norwegian TV-channel broadcasting from Tour de France, TV2. I like what they are producing. This one, from this year, is from the area where today’s stage is. The commentaries are in Norwegian, but much of the dialog is in English. And the pictures are in pictures. Enjoy!

At lot of the Rhône wines come from Ardeche. We start in the north, the appellastion Condrieu is partly in the departement Loire (which is in the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alps, and they produce Rhône wine, not Loire wine) and partly in Ardeche.

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Sanit-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray are also in Ardeche. If we go a bit further south, a lot of Côte-du-Rhône is produced in Ardece, but the classification does not mention Ardeceh.

When we are in this area, we can say a little bit about Rhône classification, and French wine classification in general.

The Rhône is a river. There is also a departement called Rhône, but that is a bith further north, around Lyon, where they do not produce much wine classified as Rhône. But the most norhernmost appellation in Rhône, Côte-Rotie, is in the departement Rhône . As so many reivers, the Rhône is a border. It used to be the border between the regions Auvergne on the right bank, and Rhône-Alpes on the left bank. But these to regions have now been merget, and the region is Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. I guess thye will decide on another name sometime in the near future. But the departements are the same, meaning that the Rhône is still the border between departements.

In France, they usually call the two banks of a river left bank and right bank. For may of us, this can be confusing, since what is left and what is right depends on where we are and in which direction we are looking. East, west, north and south could be a more obvious choice. But as the river shifts direction, the left bank remains the left bank and the right bank remains the right bank. We have to get used to this.

The Rhône river is not just a border between administrative entities. It is also a geologival border. The Rhône valley is a rift valley between the Alps, or the outskirts of the Alps on the left bank, and Massif Central on the right bank. The geology is quite different on the two sides of the river.  But I will not go into details here.

The French classification of wine, which is part of a system for classification of origin for agricultural product, including for instance cheese and meat, is adapted to the EU-system. There are three levels. The top level is AOP, Appellation Origin Protegé, which was formerly AOC. The criterias will typically be that certain grapes must be used, often indicating minimum and maximum proportion of the grapes, that they must be grown in a specified area, that the vinification must have been done in a specified area, a maximum yield, etc. The details vary form classification to classification.

The second level is IGP, Indication Geographique Protegé. The criterias have the same structure as for AOP, but are less strict. If a producer want to experiment with grapes not traditionally grown in the area, this will often be allowed under the IGP-classifications, but not under AOP-classification. One can find excellent wines in the IGP-classification, but they may be harder to find, and it is often harder to get information on these wines.

The lowest level is Vin de Table, table wine. When I am referring to classified wine, it will usually be AOP-classified wines.

If we stick to the AOP-classified wines in Rhône, they are as AOP-classified wines in other regions, based on an adaptation of George Orwell’s principle from “Animal Farm”: All appellations are equal, but some are more equal than others. They are all AOP-classifications, and formally on the same level. But there is a hierarchy among the AOP-classifications.

Producers in a large area around the Rhône river, on both sides, may sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhone. In some selected areas, where wines are generally of a higher quality, can sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône Village. Then there are some areas where they can sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône Village with the name of the commune added. The criterias get stricter as we move up the ladder.

On the top, there are areas with their own AOP-classification, such as Condrieu, Sanit-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray, that we have already mentioned. But again: Among the AOP-classifications, some are more equal tha the others. If we are crossing over to the left bank, Hermitage is regarded as better than the surrounding Crozes-Hermitage.

Wine from most of, but not all of the areas with their own AOP-classification can also be sold as Côte-du-Rhône. But if you can sell your wine as Hermitage or Cornas, you will usually prefer that over Côte-du-Rhône. I have already mentioned Costiéres-de-Nîmes as an AOP-classified area where the producers are not allowed to sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône. I could also have included Luberon and Ventoux on this list.

Back to today’s stage. The start town Bourg-Saint-Andéol is in a Côte-du-Rhône area. After the riders have been cycling for about 10 km, hand have reached the plateu, they come into the area Bidon. To my knowledge, this is not an intersting area from a wine perspective. But I think it is a bit fun, because bidon is the French word for the cyclists’ drinking bottles. Etter at rytterne har syklet omtrent en mil, og har kommet opp på det første platået, kommer man inn i området Bidon. This could be a place to get new bidons. But on this time trial, they will probably not get new bottles.

Approaching the finsih, we, or the riders, come to  Vivarais. It is another AOP-classified area that cannot use the Côte-du-Rhône classification We are in an area where Rhône meets the Cevennes. The vineyards get good sun exposure, but the high altitude gives a slightly cooler climate than in the Rhône valley. They mainly grow Syrah, and less of Grenache — which thrives in a warmer climate. The grapes are usually harvested late.

But Ardeche is a wine region to follow. When I am at a good restaurant and have a tasting menu, I usualle choose the wine pairing thay have selected to this menu. This often means that I often get good wines that are unknowon to me. I am an amateur, and trust the professional when it comes to selecting wines that go with the food. At a very good, small restaurant in Paris, Qui Plume la Lune, a restaurant with one star in the Michelin guide (at least that was what it had when we were there) we were served two very intersting wines from Ardeche, as part of their wine pairing. One was  Grande Ardèche 2009, from the well known Burgundy producer Louis Latour. They had been looking for an area where they could produce high quality Chardonnay wines in the style of White Burgundy, at a more reasonable cost than in Burgundy. In 1979, they decided on Ardeche. This is one of the better Chardonnays I have tastes, produced outside Burgundy. It is not a expensive wine. I searched for it after our visit at the restaurant, and fount the 2012 vintage (I think it was in 2014), one sale for 12.90€. I will say it is a bargain.

The other wine was from  Sylvain Bock, who is prducing nature wine, meaing no use of sulphur, etc.  It was a wine with the rather cryptic name Ne fais pas sans blanc”. It is made with 2/3 chardonnay and 1/3 grenache blanc. It is not aged in barrels. It is a fresh and clean tasting wine. This is not an expensive wine either. I found it at sale for  11.60€.

These two producers are located in Alba la Romaine, which is an old Roman town,  some  20-30 km north of today’s stage, on the other side of the valley form tomorrow’s start town: Montélimar. In this area, they produce 60% red wine and 40% white.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia

 

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