Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 17: Berne — Finhaut-Emosson

As a Norwegian, I was of couse a bit disappointed when it turned out that Alexander Kristoff did not cross the line in Bern first. I was first before and after the line, but Peter Sagan managed to get his bike across the finish line first. But with him seond, and Sondre Holst Enger third, is not a bad outcome. But You have to be the first to crosss the line, and Peter Sagan was some 3 cm before Kristoff. And I liked that Peter Sagan got another win, rather than his 18th second.

We are still in Switzerland. Monday was rather flat. Today the riders will experience some of what Switzerland is known for: Mountains.

TdF2016_17Before we start on today’s stage, I will rest with Fabian Cancellara. During Monday’s stage, the commentators on French TV talked a lot about Cancellara’s passion for wine. When the interviewed him after the finish in Berne, they asked about which wine he would choose to celebrate arriving in Bern in is last Tour. He said he would rather have a Belgian beer for recuperation, and that wine had to wait for later. Even though it has nothing to do with today’s stage, I include a picture of on af Fabian Cancellara’s bikes, that where on display in a bikd shop in Zürich when I was there some weeks ago.

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We are now going into the Swiss Alps. High mountains means that it will be more difficult to find wine. The first 80 km is in the canton Bern, which is a white spot on the map of Swiss’ wine regions I am sure that there are some wine producers in Bern too, and they may even produce good wie. But Bern is not an important wine district. The wine producing areas in Switzerland are these:

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They are producing wine around Geneva. And in Vaud, north and east of Lake Geneva (yellom on the map), Neuchatel where we were Monday, Valais along the Rhône river (pink), the Italian speaking Ticino (orange) and the green part to the north and east that on the map is called German Switzerland. In some of the areas labeled German, they do not speak German but Retoromanisch.

For us, it does not make sense to search for wine before we are comming to Vaud and Valais. The riders enter Vaud when they come down from the first third category moiuntain. But they are still up in the mountains, where there are not much wine to find. The stage does not go through any of the main wine making parts of Vaud. If the riders had turned right, and cycled down the valley towards Lake Geneva, they would have entered the wine growing parts of Vaud.

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The typical vineyards in Vaud are in the slopes down to Lake Geneva, like here between Montreux and Lausanne — but rather far from today’s stage.

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But the stage turns left, up the valley, towards Valais. But still, it is not a part of this Canton where they produce much wine. The riders come down in the valley at Aigle, and ride up the valley to Martigny, where the valley turns 90 degrees and continues to the east. Here there is an intermediary sprint, before the riders turn west, and start their climb into the mountains. But as we can see from the picture below, there are some vineyards in Martigny.

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They produce a lot of wine in the Valais valley. But we have to go further up the valley for the main areas,

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The grapes are the same as I mentiones yesterday. For white, Casselas is dominating, often called Fendant in Valais. It gives a dry and fruity wine. For red it is mostly Pinot Noir, and some Gamey. Ant the for me still a bilt mysterious Dôle. It is said to be an offspring from Pinot Noir and Gamay. But I am not sure if it is a hybrid grape, or if wine from these two grapes are blended. When asking when I was in Valais not long ago, I got the impression that it is a grape, and was told that many producers use produce because it is easier to grow, compared to PInot Noir and Gamay. But I were asking those who were serving wine in bars and restaurants, who would alwasy recommend Pinot Noir over Dôle. I did not ask any producers. As I do not have my main refernce book on grapes, Jancis Robinson’s “Wine Grapes” at hand, I have had to rely on information on the the net. I have to look into this when I get home.

Switzerland is a quadlingual country. The official languages are German, French, Italian and Retoromanich. Valais is, as Bern, a bilingual canton, where they speak German and French. The canton is called Wallis in German. I stick to the French names here, as my French is better than my German.

The linguistic border is in Sierre, about 40 km up the valley from Martigny. Up to and including this town, it is French. Furher up from there, it is German. After having discussed this issue with som Swiss people in Valais, I got the impression that the border between the language areas are sharper than at least I would think, as language is also gives cultural identity. We will continue into some German speaking areas.

About 80 km up the valley from Martigny, we come to a little town called Visp. From there, we turn south into a side valley, and up int the mountains, to a place called Visperterminen. Here they claim to have the highest vineyards in Europe.

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I was a bit surprised when I discovered this. If I should have guessed, I would have thought that we would find the highest vineyards in a more southern and warmer country, like at the high plains or mountainsides in Spain, not in The Swiss Alps. In the slopes facing south, they grow vines in terraced vineeyards  at altitudes between 650 and1150 meter.

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I was there earlier this summer. I was cycling along the Rhône RIver from its start up at the Rhône Glacier, down to the sea. I was curious about this wine, and when I arrived in Visp, I was considering if I should go up to Visperterminen or not. It is a hard climb. If you go up to the village Visperterminen, which is located higher than the vineyards, it is a climb of 842 meter at a 9,6 km distance. This gives an average gradient of 8,8%, which is about the same as Mont Ventoux. But there are segments with gradients up to more than 15%. But where there are climbs, there are always cyclists who will do the climbs.

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I amn an overweight 61 year old recreational cyclist, and I had set a  personal record in climbing they day before, on a climb that was very hard for me. I was not at all ready to end my stage this day with a climb like this, particularly not with 15 kg luggage on my bike. But Switzerland has good public transport, also in less populated areas, with trains and busses. It is the Postal service who is running these busses, and they carry bikes.

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I went up with the bus, with my bike and my luggage, I arrived in Visperterminen late afternoon, and thought that I could stay there to the next day. I did as I often do when travelling like this: I picked up my tablet, and searched for a hotel. I found one close to where I was standing, that had a good offer: Hotel Rothorn. I got a large room with a terrace and a splendid view. And the hotel was run by a nice lady.

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If you should go to Visperterminen, I can recommend Hotel Rothorn.

The wine is made from a grape called Heida. It is an aromatic grape, a kind of Traminer, which give an aromatic wine. Personally I would have preferred the wine a bit dryer. If you are intersted in wine, this is a wine you should taste if you are in the area. It is probably difficult to find outside the area, and it is not really worth to search too hard for.

SIMG_5730_DxOBut are they really the vineyards at highest altitude? One should always take claims of something being the highest, oldest, largest etc wita at least a grain of salt. I have not done any research into this. I am only quoting the information provided by the Swiss. Jeg holder meg til the information provided by the Swiss, and maybe it is not the highest after all. This is what they write about vineyards at high altitudes:

  • Every Swiss knows that Visperterminen has the highest vineyards in Europe. And yet…
  • The Canary Islands boast a vineyard at 1600 m.
  • Cyprus has vineyards at 1500 m in the Limassol district and at 1250 m near Paphos.
  • On the European mainland, Spain claims vineyards at 1300 m in the mountains of the Granada district.
  • And the Aosta valley of northern Italy, just over the border from Switzerland, has a vineyard at 1225 m.
  • The highest vineyards in the world are in the foothills of the Andes in Argentina, where the El Arenal vineyard at just over 3000 m claims to be the highest of all.

But it is still worth the visit, and it is a wine one should have tasted.

Tomorrow we are back in France for a short uphill time trial, It will be hard for the riders, and we will have a hard time finding intersting wine in this area.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia

 

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