Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 21: Chantilly — Paris Champs-Élysées

I am glad that there were no serious crashes during yesterday’s difficult stage. Vincezo Nibali seemed to be a bit mentaly marked by his crash the day before, and was more careful in the last descent than he usually is. It was no surprise that for Chris Froome and Sky, it was control, control and control.

The person who has really impressed med the most during this year’s Tour, is Peter Sagan, who has been chosen the supercombative in this year’s Tour. Three stage wins and win with an enourmous margin in the green jersey competition is impressiv enough. But what has impressed me even more, is his working moral and effort to support his team mates. On stage 17, he was riding hard to help Rafal Majka secure the polkca dot jersey, with success. Yesterday he was riding just as hard to help another team mate, Roman Kreuziger to a podium finish. It did not work out, but Roman Kreuziger is now top 10. Alberto Contador abandoned early. Despite that, Tinkoff has the green jersey, the polka dot jersey and a third rider among the top ten in the general classification. Not a bad outcome! This is very much thanks to Peter Sagan’s effort for the team. It is not often we see the green jersey riding hard in the front on hard mountain stages, as a domestic for other riders in the team.

<edit>An interesting article in The Guardian about the team work in Sky: “Team Sky show power of the pack is key to Tour de France dominance”.</edit>

For the sprinters, Champs-Élysées is one of the most prestigious wins. It will be a hard fight. I do not think Peter Sagan would mind another win. Marcel Kittel will want his second. And the sprinters who have not yet won a stage, like Andre Greipel, Bryan Coquard, John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff will go for it. As usual, it starts outside of Paris, this year north of Paris. The first part is a parade, as an easy Sunday roll for the riders. But what is a very relaxed tempo for them, can be more than fast enough for som of us others. The race starts when the riders enter the circuit in Paris, that they shall do 8 times.

The weather forcast says nice, partly cloudy and 26-27 centigrades. It should be a nice day for the riders, for the spectators and for the media. I was at the final i Paris last summer, and the picture I have been using as an illustration for this series, is one of the pictures I took then.

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The ville depart is Chantilly. Chantilly is whipped cream in French. Which can be nice to add to the final.

There is a lot of good winein Paris. But most of it is not produced there. But there is a little wine production in Paris. The most well know is the wine produced at Montmartre. They produce around 1.700 bottles a yeart (á 0,5 l) and it is not on regular sale. It can be bought during the annual wine festival Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre (in Ocotber). The wine is said to be rather similar to Beaujolais Nouveau and cost around 40€ pr bottle. You can get at very good wine for 40€ in France, and I don’t think the wine from Montmartre is worth the price.

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There is also a famous vineyard in Belleville. And some lesser known vineyards. It shall be 132 vineyards in the region Îles-de-France, and 10 within the borders of Pairs. But it is a small production, and most is consumed locally on spedial occations celebrating the wine.

If we should choose a wine region that we can say is the wine region of Paris, it must be Champagne. It is around 100 km from Paris to the champagne capital Reims. But the vineyards start ca 50 km from Paris. And could there be anything better suited for a final like this, than champagne?

I will start with the basics. Champagne is, in addition to  a district east of Paris, a sparkling wine produced in and made from grapes grown in Champagne. The wine is champagne with small c, the district is Champagne with capital C. They make sparkling wine many places, and some of the wines are very good. But this is not champagne. Champagne can only be made in Champagne. I have not tasted sparkling wine made other places, that is as good as a good champagne. If it is worth the price premium, is open for discussion.

Champagne is made from three different grapes, the green Chardonnay, and the black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. For historic reasons, some other grapes are allowed. But they are insignificant.

Despite that they use two black and one green grapes, the champagne is produced as a white wind. The colour is in the skin. If the skin is removed, we get a white juice.

The champagne is produced as a still wine. It is stored in vats, sur lie, meaning with the remains of yeast etc from the fermentation, for a long time — often years. It gives a taste to the wine, an aroma of freshly made bread, brioche etc.

A large part of the champagne is sold under brand name, and they want the taste of tha various brands to be consistent. They make a cuvée by blending wines from differents grapes, from different vineyards and different vintages, to get the right taste. Som champagne houses grow most of their grapes themselves, other buy from independent growers. A lot of the grapes go to cooperatives, and to producers of cheap champagne — to the extent any champagne can be called cheap. A lot of this cheap champagne is sold in supermarkets in France and UK. It is real champagne, and you pay a price for the champane label. You can probably get a sparkling wine that is just as good, to a more reasonable price, produced other places.

When they have blended a cuvée from different wines, it is bottled. A little grape juice (and maybe yeast) is added, for the second fermentation. It is the second fermentation that produce the CO2, which makes the bubbles. The bottles are carefully and slowly rotated and turned upside down, so that all the sediments is collected in the neck. This is called remuage. In the old days, this was done manually,  with the bottles in a wooden rack (pupitre), and a cellar master was turning the bottles a little bit each day.

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Now they use machines that can handle 500 bottles at at time, that works 24/7, and can complete the process in one week instead of six.

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The part collected in the neck is then frozen, the bottle is opened and this lump is “shut” out of the bottle. It is the refilled with wine, recorked, labeled and ready to go to the market.

As many champagnes are made by blending different vintages, most champagne is sold as non vintage. Vintage champagne is only made in very good years.

Most of the chamagens are made as a blend of all the three grapes that are allowed. But they can also use only one, or just two of the grapes. A champagne that is labeled “blanc de blancs”, white from whites, is made by using only white (green) grapes, meaning chardonnay since this is the only white grape they can use. A blanc de blancs is 100% chardonnay. This gives a fresh champagne with high acidity, which is a very good aperitif.

A champagne made only from black grapes is labelled “blanc de noirs”, white from blacks. It can be pinot noir or pint meunier, or a blend of the two. Usually a blanc the noirs is pinot noir, but we do not know if it not said on the label. A blanc de noirs has a taste of redd berries.

Some vineyards are better than others, and grapes from the best vineyards are used in the best and most expensive champagne.

There is also pink champagne. Usually a rosé is made from black grapes, with skin contact for a short time until the skins are removed. This gives a wine with a pink colour. How deep or pale the colour will be, depends on the grape and for how long time there is skin contact. Unfortunately, pink champagne is not produced as a rosé. It is a white with some red wine added, giving a pink white rather than a rosé.

To be honest, pink champagne is not my favourite. I prefer the white. I have once tasted a pink champagne that was made as a rosé. It was a champagne from Jacquesson. They used to make this rosé champagne from pinot noir. But one year they had problems with their pinot noirs. It was a funghus, or something else on the skin. They decided to remove the skin not to get the wine contaminated, and made a blanc de noirs. It it should not meet their standards, they whould sell it to some producer of “cheap champagne”. But the blanc de noirs was good. When tasting it, everyone at Jacquesson agreed that the blanc de noirs was better than their rosé, which became the en of their rosé champagne. They do not make it anymore. To be honest, this was the best pink champagne I have tasted.

The weather forecast for Paris says partly cloudy, and 26-27 centigrades. On a day like this, I will choose a blanc the blancs, preferably from a smaller producers. They often give better value for money. Champagne is an excellent wine with food, and it goes with almost anything. As strangely as i may sound: Hot dogs and champagne is good combinationg, given that you skip the ketchup. But with food, I woule go for a champagne with more black grapes, again it can be from a small producer.

We bought an appartemnet i France 11 years ago. Since then, I have mainly been following Tour de France on French TV. No other broadcaster use as much resources on their Tour de France coverage as they do. A key figure in their coverage is Gerard Holtz, the doyen of French sports journalism. This year was his last year in Tour de France as a reporter and TV anchor. We have seen a lot of clips with a younger Gerard, and tributes to him. Yesterday, the Tour de France director Christian Proudhome grabbed Gerards microphone, thanked him and gave him a yellow jersey signed by many cyclist and maybe other prominent persons. I their talk show after the stage, Vélo Club, Gerard ingerviewd Chris Froome. At the end of the interview, Chris Froome took out one of his yellow jerseys and handed it to Gerard as a gift.

I am sure I am not the only one who will miss Gerard Holtz among the journalists in 2017 and maybe some of the following years.

Afte the final, when this year’s tour has ended, it is my turn to go back on the bike. My plan is to cycle along the Rhine river from where it starts in The Swiss Alps, to where it flows out in the North Sea in the Netherland. And then fly home from Amsterdam. The tour will be along the route EuroVelo15.

The tour will, among other places, take med to Düsseldorf, where Tour de France 2017 will start. We do not know very much yet. But the tour 2017 will start July 1. with a 13 km individual time trial in Düsseldorf. The second stage will start with 9 km in Düsseldorf, but I think this is only the defilation before the real start. Where it will go from there, is not yet published. But usually, when starting outside France, the Tour will cross to French border on the third day. I wll guess that they will either follow the Rhine vally more or less, in the direction Vosges and/or Alsace, or the Mosel valley in the direction Lorraine. We will know in october, when the route is presented.

I will at least take som pictures in Düsseldorf, to have when we meet again July 1st 2017 for som German wine, or maybe German beer. I’ll se you then.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia

 

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