Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 21 Montgeron — Paris Champs-Élysées

Despite that it rests one stage, everything except the stage win is already decided, provided that they get to the finish. Chris Froome wins the genereal classification, Warren Barguil is King of the Mountains, Michael Matthews wins the green jersey, Simon Yates is the best young rider, and Sky is the best team.

The cycling season is not yet over. Among other races, there are Vuelta d’Espagna, World Championship etc. But nevertheless, I will say that the team of the year is Team Sunweb. It was not a team I thought of as one of the top teams at the beginning of the season. Tom Dumoulin won Giro d’Italia. In this year’s Tour de France, they are winning the Polka dot King for the Mountain jersey and the green points jersey, and have four stage wins. Michael Matthews is among the candidates to win the final stage, so it may be five. The strong riders are young. Tom Dumoulin and Michael Matthews are 26, Warren Barguil is 25. They are riders for the future. If Sunweb is able to keep them, is another question. We can give a toast for Team Sunweb.

Edvald Boasson Hagen may win the final stage. But I will reflect a little about the significance of his stage win. If he had ended with two second and two third places, it would have been a good result, but only an “almost” that would have been soon forgotten by anyone but those who have a speical intrest in his results. A stage win is remembered. Add his two seconds and thirds to the stage win, and the total outcome is very good. The stage win is very important in itself, but it also increases the value of his other good results.

The final in Paris is tradition, and we stick to the tradition too. Today, it must be champagne. Champagne is a wine for the great occations, and for the not so great occations. As someone, I forgotten who, has said:

You should always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge, in case there should be something to celebrate. What you want to celebrate, may be the fact that you have a bottle of champagne in the fridge.

There is some wine production in Paris, and in the surrounding communes. But it is almost a curiosity. The most well known vineyard in Paris is the one at Montmartre.

But there are also vineyards in Belleville and other quartiers of Paris. When we had dinner at the restaurant Benoit in Paris not too long ago, they had a white wine rom Paris in their wine list. But the food we had ordered asked for red wine, and I did not want to buy a bottle of the Parisian white, just to taste it. They did not have it by the glass.

If we should go to the wine district most close to Paris, it will be Champagne. The vineyards in Champagne start 50-60 km east of Paris

Champagne is a sparkling wine, made in Chamagne, according to the rules for making champagne. They produce sparkling wines many places, some places they produce excellent sparkling wines. But if it is not made in Champagne, it is not champagne.

They use three grapes for the production of champagne. On white, chardonnay, and two reds or black, pinot noir and pinot meunier. For historical reasons, six other grapes are allowed. But they are not used.

Any quality product starts with good raw materials, which often means expensive raw materials. 1,2 kg of grapes are needed to produce one bottle of champagne. In 2012, which is the most recent year from which I have figures, the average price for champagne grapes for 5 €/kg, meaning that the average price of the raw materials for a bottle of champagne was 6 €. Quality varies, and the better the quality, the higher are the prices. From the grapes, we enter a long, complicated and difficult production process, before we can open a bottle of champagne. It is no surprise that these wines are expensive.The best vineyards are classified as grand cru, and below that is premier cru.

The fermentation is usually done without skin contact, meaning the we get at white wine. Some producers make rosé champagne the same way as normal rosé is made, from red/black grapes with skin cotact for a limited time in the fermentation. This method is called saignée. But most of the rosé champagne is made by adding red wine to a white champagne, a method called assemblage.

The wine is first fermented to a still, usually white wine. After the alcoholic fermentaion, it is common with what is called a malolactic fermentation. It is actually not fermentation, but a process done by bacterias. The sharper malic acid is transformed to the softer lactic acid. The wines get softer, but also less fruity. Most of the champagne producers use malolactic fermentaion. Some producer do not, among them Krug, Lanson, Gosset, and Louis Roederer for some of their cuvées.

After the first fermentation, the wine is usually aged for some months. Some producers use oak barrels, and among them some use old and some use new oak. The wine is aged at the remains from the fermentation, such as dead yeast etc, “sur lees”. Some wines are stored for a long time, as reserve wines.

Now we come to one of the difficult tasks: The blending of the cuvées. Skill and experience are needed. They are blending still wines. They must be able to forsee the end result after the second fermentation, when the alcholic strenght i 1% higher, and the wine is cabonic. A cuvée may have grapes from different producers and vineyards, and even different vintages. The big champagne houses want to maintain their brand style, and the champagne shall not be different from one year to another. Vintage champagne is only made in very good years, and then they use only wine from the year indicated.

Here is a “library” of vintages at Pommery.

When the cuvée is blended, it is ready for the second fermentation. Som must and yeast is added, and the wine is botteled. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle, which is usually sealed with capsuls of the kind we know from beer bottles, at least for normal sized bottles. During the fermentaion, alcohol and CO2 is produced. CO2 is dissolved in the wine, and will in the end produce the bubbles. The bottles are then aged. The minimu requirement is 15 months, but they are often aged longer. The bottles are stored horisontally, to better distribute the remains from the fermantaion, which are important to the taste. The bottles on the picture below are magnum, and they have used corks, not capsules.

How many bottles of champagne there are “sleeping” in these vaults, I du not know. But they are rather deep, so there are many.

When the wine is almost ready, the dead yeast and other remains from the fermentaion must be removed. The bottles are placed in a rack where it is slowly turned, a quarter of a turn per day, and tilted to an upside down position. This process is called remuage. Traditionally this was done by hand, two bottles at the time (one with each hand). This is a demontration rack in plexiglass at Taittinger, made to show how he process is working.

They developed more efficient was to do this. Now bottles are put in bins, so that they can turn and tilt a large number of bottles simultanously. But when visiting a champagne house, they like to show the old method. This is what they like to show to visitors.

They still do it manually or their prestige cuvées. The picture below is from a visit at Veuve Cliqout in 1988. They may have developed them further since then.

When all the sediments have fallen down in the neck of the bottle, the neck is put down in brine, at a temperature well below the freezing point. After a minute or so, it has frozen to a plug. It is not really an ice plug, more like some gel. When the bottle is opened, the pressure in the bottle will shoot out the plug. It is important so loose as little wine as possible in this process, called degorgement. But some will always be lost. New wine is added, and the bottles are corked. The the bottles are labeled, and they are usually store for another few months, before it is ready for the market. Here bottles are arriving for degorgement at Veuve Cliqout.

The process is the same for all champagnes. But as we have already been in the district Aube, we stay further north this time.

The big champagne houses may grow some grapes themselves, but they also buy grapes form indpendent growers. Some producers, for instance Jaquesson, make their champagne only from grapes that they have grown themselves. When they are blending their cuvées, they try to make the best out of the grapes they have, rather than to have cuvées that are similar from year to year. Some champagnes, usualy the nore exclusive champagnes, are made with grapes from a single vineyard.

The majority of the champagnes are made as blends of the three grapes allowed when making champagne. But the proportions are different, and there are many other aspects that also influence the taste of the final product. But some champagnes are made from only one type of grape. A blanc de blancs, white from whites, is a white champagne made only from white grapes, which means 100% chardonnay, as chardonnay is the only white grape that can be used for the production of champagne. The main area for growing chardonnay is Côte de Blancs, south of Epernay. It has its name from the white limestone.

A blanc de noirs, white from blacks, is a white champagne made only from blac (red) grapes. It will usually be 100 % pinot noir. But it may also be a blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier, or even 100% pinot meunier. Montagne de Reims, between Reims and Eprnay, is one of the more important areas for pinot noir. Vallée de la Marne is the main area for pinot meunier. The aproximety to the river, makes the climate a bit cooler, and pinot meunier can stand the cold better than the other grapes.

As an aperitif, particularly on a summer day, I would have chosen a blanc de blancs. This would also be my choice to celebrate a good result and that the job is done, again particularly in the summer. If it was really something great to celebrate, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne would be a good candidate. It is one of the better blanc de blancs I have tasted. But it is an expensive champagne.

Champagne goes very well with food, and we can drink champagne to almost anything. It goes well with luxury food like oysters and caviar. But it also go well with more rustic food. A rather profiled Norwegian chef like to serve hot dogs and champagne, which is a good combination. But we must skip the ketchup. Wine and tomatoes is a difficult combination. For food to which you would usually drink beer, champagne may be a good alternative.

Which champagne to drink, will of course depend on what you are eating. But as a champagne for the entire meal, I would choose a rahter full bodied champagne, lik Bollinger or Gosset. A blanc de noir may also be a good choice to food.

The area Montagne de Reims, between Reims and Epernay, is one of the main areas for pinot noir. Here we find the cooperative Maiily, which only uses grapes from the granc cru vineyards in and around the village Mailly-Champagne. They make very good wines, particularly blanc de noirs.

There wines are reasonably prices. Very good value or money, in my opinion.

There is also rosé champagne. It is usually not made as a rosé wine, but as a white champagne with red wine added. Rosé champagne is not my favourite. I prefer white. But some make rosé champagne the same way as rosé wine is usually made, from red grapes with sin contact the first part of the fermentation. This method is called saignée.

One of the bette rosé champagnes I have tasted, is one from Jaquesson, produced with the saignée method. But this champagne is no longer producec. At a tasting of champagnes from Jaquesson, they told that they used to produce this rosé with pinot noir from one specific vineyard. One year, they got problems with the grapes. It was something on the skin, but I missed the details. To avoid contaminaton of the wine, they decided to produce it as a blanc de noirs, with not skin contact. They thought that if it was not good enough for a Jaquesson, they would sell it to another producer.

I asked how they could sell it, if it was not good enough. They said that it was not difficult to sell it to some producer who make “cheap” champagne, even if the wine is not up to Jaquesson’s own standards. They produce “cheap” champagne for super market chains who will sell it under thei own label. It is a champagne, even if it is not among the best champagnes. It is “cheap” only in comparision with champagne of better quality. I think one have to pay a premium when it says “champagne” on the label, and that one can probably get a crémant that is better, maybe at a lower price.

Back to Jaquesson. The wine was good, and they sold it as a blanc de noirs. Everyone at Jaquesson agreed that the blanc de noirs was better than their rosé. So they decided to stop the production of the rosé, and is now using the grapes from this vineyard for the blanc de noirs. They know their wines better than I do. But I still think it is a pity, because of the rosé champagnes I have tasted, ths was the only rosé champagne I really liked.

When we were in Epernay earlier this year, we visited Collard-Picard. They produce a rosé champagne with the saignée method, Cuvée des Merveilles Rosé de Saignée. Immediately I liked it. A champagne with a clear pinot noir character. But it was too much of a good thing. Champagne can be made as white or rosé. Red champagne is not allowed within the classification. But there is no clear border between a dark rosé and a light red. This wine is a borderline wine.

After these rather negative views on rosé champagne, I have to add that some of the champagne house’s prestige cuvées are also made in rosé versions. Louis Roederers Cristal rosé is said to be an excellent champagne. But I have not tasted it, and have no opinion.

This is about cycling and wine. This is not a bike anyone would choose for Tour de France or for other long trips on bike. But still, this bike at Mercier is a bike to my taste.

Then we can only wait for next year. June 30. Tour de France starts in Vendée, where the river Loire flows out in the sea. The first stage starts at Nouirmoutier-en-l’Île, and the riders have to cross Passage du Gois on their way to the mainland. It is a road that can only be used at low tide. The three first stages are in this area. Stage 2 takes us a bit in from the coast, nearer to some wines. Stage 3 is a 35 km team time trial. For stage 4 they have only published the start. We do not know where we will end. We will be in the area or Muscadet and some other Loire wines.

It is also confirmed that the Grand depart 2019 will be in Brussels, but no details are published. But it will be more Belgian beer.

Tom Stevenson: Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & sparkling wine

1402772246This book is the international refernce when it comes to sparkling wines. The title says Champagne & sparkling wine, and it should come as no surprise that champage get the broadest coverage. Og the book'a 500 pages, 150 are dedicated to champagne, 50 to a general introduction to sparkling wine, and 300 pages to sparkling wines from other regions than Champagne. More than 1600 wines are rated.

Buy it from Amazon UK or Amazon US.


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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 20. Marseille — Marseille (individual time trial)

At last! An impressive and very well deserved win by Edvald Boasson Hagen!

Stage 20, the penultimate stage. Today, everything will be decided. It is a 22,5 km individual time trial. It has a climb up to a little more than 100 meters, and a descent afterwards. I have not found many details, neither about the climb or the descent. But i should favour time tiralers who are also good climbers, like Chris Froome.

For most of the riders, an indiviual time trial as the penultimate stage, is what Jens Voigt some years ago called a “semi rest day”. Most of the riders have done their job, and it is mission completed. The GC-contenders are on their own. The other riders on the team cannot help them. The domestics have no ambitions on their own, at least not on a time trial. They will complete the stage in a decent way, within the time limit and get jeg job done, so they can be part of the party in Paris.

Some riders, like Tony Martin, are time trial specialists, and may try to win the stage. They go all in. For the sprinters, the final in Paris is the most prestigious stage to win. They will save energy for tomorrow.

AG2R is 3 min 8 sec behind Sky in the team classification. Maybe AG2R will order at least three of their riders to go all in, and try to win this. And maybe Sky will defend their lead.

The riders are going up to the cathedral Notre-Dame de la Garde, on a hill 116 meters above sea level. I do not know the details on the way up, and do not know the gradients of the climb. I have walked from the Old Harbour up to Notre-Dame de la Garde. It is steep. And the descent is probably difficult.

Foto: Tobi 87, Wikimedia common, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 20. Marseille — Marseille (individual time trial)

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 19. Embrun — Salon-de-Provence

Antoher impressive ride and stage win for Warren Barguil. And none of the GC contenders were able to win time on Chris Froome. Now they have only the time trial on Saturday to do it.

Today, the riders are going down from the mountains. It ends flat, and it will probably end in a bunch sprint. In practise, the green jersey is decided. Michael Matthews just have to come to Paris and finish the race. I have not calculated if it is in theory possible for André Greipel to take 160 points on Michael Matthews on the remaining stages. Once again, I hope Edvald Boasson Hagen will take home the stage.

The stage starts im Embrun, at the north-eastern end of Lac de Serre-Ponçon, and this time continues down La val­lée de la Durance. But we “drunk” the wines from this area yesterday, and we will find more interesting wines further down.

The stage passes east and south of Mont Ventoux, that the riders do not have to cycle (or run for Chris Froome) up this time. We are in the border area between Rhône and Provence. At least in the world of wine. For all other purposes, we are in Provence.

The stage make a brief visit to Ventoux, before continuing to Luberon. Both this areas are in wine classiication part of the southern Rhône, but they are among the classified areas in Rhône that cannot call their wine Côtes-du-Rhone. Both areas are on a bit higher altitude than the rest of southern Rhône, and are located close to mountains, This gives a slightly cooler, or should we say less warm climate than what is typical for southern Rhône. Particularly the night temperature is a bit cooler, which is important for the wine.

In Ventoux, 85% of the production is red wine. The grapes are those usually used in southern Rhône: Syrah and grenache, often with some cinsaut, mourvèdre and/or carignan. They used to produce rather light bodied reds. When I was young, it was a periode when I used to buy Côtes-du-Ventoux, which I remember as a rather light bodied red wine. I am sure that it was also reasobly priced, but not among the very cheapest. When I was young, price was more important than quality. But I think we had started to get interested in more than just cheap alcohol when we were drinking Côtes-du-Ventoux. But I knew nothing about the wine, other than it was French. How we came across this wine, I do not remember. But I have known Ventoux as a red wine, much longer than I have known Mont Ventoux.

But in Ventoux, as in many other areas, producers, at least some of them, have improved the quality. Now we can get more full boded wines. The difference is very much a result of the vinification. Today, it is difficult to characterise a typical Côte-du-Ventoux wine.

They also produce some rosé, and a small amount of white, which is said to be “secret”. White is only 1% of the production. For more information, see Decanter travel guide: Ventoux.

After a brief visit to Ventoux, we come to Luberon. Lubreon is the Provence cliche, particularly after the British author Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence”. Luberon, or Côtes-du-Luberon got AOC status in 1988. The ridge Montagne du Luberon rises more than 1000m above sea level, and contributes to cooler climate and cooler nights, compared to lower areas. In the area, one can grow good Syrah, which like the cool, and the more warmth loving Grenache.

Despite being the southernmost district in Rhône, the altitude and the relatively cool climate makes it possible to produce a fresh and crisp white wine from Grenache blanc, Clairette, Vermentino and Rousanne.

Before the finish, the riders will pass through Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. Here they produce red wine from the grapes Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise. Some of the wine is vinified for about a month at 35 degrees Celsius, which is then blended with wine vinified in the traditional way. According to the producers, this shall give a deep, complex, tanninic wine. I have to admit that more research is needed on my side, to say more about these wines. Rosé is made from the same grapes. White wine is made from Bourboulenc, Vermentino, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon and Sémillon. But as is typical for the region, red and rosé dominate the production. On this map we find an overview of producers and wine merchants in the area. See alo Hachette guide til Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. This is the website of the association of producers.

The  World Atlas of Wine

1845336895If you will have only one book on wine, “The World Atlas of Wine”, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson is the one you should have. It is a classic, and it is now in its seventh edtition. It is a beautiful book with nice maps and excellent content. It covers the entire world,  but still with an emphazis on "The Old World".

Buy it from Amazon UK or  Amazon US.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
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Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia


Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 18. Briançon — Izoard

A for me unknown Slovenian rider, Primoz Roglic, won in an impressive way. The first Slovenian stage win in the Tour.

Just at the competition for the green jersey was restarting, and was exciting, it ended with Marcel Kittel’s crash and abandon. This was not the way this competition should end.

This is the second stage in the Alps, and the last mountain stage. Those whe will improve their standing in the general classification, and are not very good time trialers, must win time on this stage. Not attacs on Chris Froome yesterday succeded. It was also interesting to note that when the other GC-contenders were alone at the end, Chris Froome had Mikel Landa at his side to the finish.

The stage is at altitudes between some more than 800 to some more than 2300 meters, and it is usually not possible to grow wine a such altitudes.

We can find some wine along the artificial lake Lac de Serre-Ponçon, that the riders will pass. A lake has a warming effect in the autoumns and winters, and cooling effect in the summers. It takes long time to warm up water, and it takes long time to cool down. Lac de Serre-Ponçon, is located 800 meters above sea level.

The firs producer I will mention is Domaine Taver­nier, in Embrun, at the northern end of Lac de Serre-Ponçon. I do not know more about the producer and their wines than we can read on their web site, which is not much.

We can find some producers i the valley down from the south-western end of Lac de Serre-Ponçon. We are then in La val­lée de la Durance, the valley where the river Durance is flowing. Durance comes from Bri­ançon, flows out into Lac de Serre-Ponçon and continues down to the Rhône. But today’s stage turns to the east at the end of Lac de Serre-Ponçon, so we will not continue down the valley this time..

Domaine Alle­mand is down this valley, and they grow grapes in south-west facing slopes at around 600 meters. They write that they are using lokal grapes. I think one of them must be Mol­lard. This grape is just as unknown to me as the wines from the area.You can read a bit more on this web-site.

Other producers I have found are Domaine de la Clochère, Domaine du Petit Août and Domaine de Tres­bau­don. The first two use local grapes, but the latter two use Caber­net Sau­vig­non, Syrah, Mer­lot and Vio­g­nier, in addition to what seems to be a local variety of Mus­cat. There is also the cooperative Cave des Hau­tes Vig­nes. That’s it. I have not been able fo find more wine from this area.

I have also been looking for beer along the stage, but have not found breweries worth menioning.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Mountain High: Europe's 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs

0857386247If you, like me, want to know more about where they are cycling, particularly about the climbs, Mountain High: Europe's 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding is the book to have. The book covers 50 of Europe's greatest climbs, among them several of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia classics. We get description, history, technical details and stunning pictures.

Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Mountain Higher: Europe's Extreme, Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs

1780879121If you like "Mountain High", and want more, there is a follow up by the same authors. The format is the same. But it covers less known mountain climbs.

Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.


Tour de France 2017

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 17. La Mure — Serre-Chevalier

Another almost for Edvald Boasson Hagen. Three photofinishes, two second and two third places. I really hope he will win a stage.

Now the riders go into the Alps. Those who will take the yellow jersey from Chris Froome have to stages. This or the next one. It is not enough to take the advantage Chris Froome has, they must have a buffer before the not very long, but demanding time trial in Marseille.

Marcel Kittel is showing signs of fatigue before the Alps. Before the intermediate sprint today, they shall over a second category climb. I think we will see hard racing from Sunweb as they will try to secure more points for the polka dot jersey for Warren Bargueil, and drop Marcl Kittel before the intermediate sprint, som Michael Matthews can get some more points. The green jersey does not sit safely on Marcel Kittel’s shoulders.

Moiuntains mean that it is difficult to find wine. We visited wines from Savoie to stage 9. They are very good wines, and unless you are in the area for today’s stage, they are probably the closesd winws we can find.

A large part of the stage goes in the departement Isére, and we can go to IGP Isére and IGP Coteaux du Grésivaudan, at the sides of the Chartereuse massive. Here the grapes get a lot of sun, and there is a warm micro climate. They mainly produce red wine, but also rosé and white.

They are growing some traditional grapes in the area, which we will not find many other places. L’Etraire de la Dui is a red/black grape from Isére that gives a tanninic, fruity and a bit spicy wine. My sources says it goes well with game, but I have not tested the combination.

La Verdesse us a white grape from Isère. It gives a light yellow wine, high in alcohol.

Le Persan is a red/white grape ordiginally from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, but it is also grown in les coteaux du Grésivaudan. It gives a relatively tanninic wine which is sasid to go well with red meat, duck and goose.

When there are no wines to be found, we have to look for some beer. The riders will be crossing Col du Galibier. What can then be better than a beer from Brasserie du Galibier. It is in Valliore, which is the place the riders are riding down to from Col du Télégraphe, before they start the climb up to Col du Galibier. Their two beers Avalance and Alpine are both awarded three stars in Le Guide Hachette des Bieres, while their Matchut is awarded two stars.

chartreuse_vIf you like somethink sweet and strong, you can go for one of the classic liquers: Char­treuse. As far as I know, it is the stronges liquers produced, at least as long as we stick to liquers sold commercially. Grønn Char­treuse has 55% aslchol. It is made with 130 different herbs, and only two monks know the reciep. According to the producers, it is the only green liquer with natural colour. There is also a yellow Gul Char­treuse with 40% strenght. But the green is the better known.

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
Amazon US

When we are searching for beer, we have to use other sources of information.

Le guide Hachette des bières

This is a guide first and foremost, but not only to French beer. But it is a guide book to French beer this book is interesting in a Tour de France context. The authors have tested more than 1000 beers from 300 breweries. They have used a scale from 0 to 5. 0 is faulty beer. 1 is mediocre. These beers have not been included in the book. Level 2 are mentioned without a star. 3 to 5 are awarded 1, 2 or 3 stars. Dette er en guide først og fremst,

The book is not published every year. The most recent edition is from 2016.

Buy it from:

Mountain High: Europe's 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs

0857386247If you, like me, want to know more about where they are cycling, particularly about the climbs, Mountain High: Europe's 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding is the book to have. The book covers 50 of Europe's greatest climbs, among them several of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia classics. We get description, history, technical details and stunning pictures.

Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Mountain Higher: Europe's Extreme, Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs

1780879121If you like "Mountain High", and want more, there is a follow up by the same authors. The format is the same. But it covers less known mountain climbs.

Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US.


Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia




Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 16. Le Puy-en-Velay — Romans-sur-Isère

In my opinion, to ride from the rest and win solo, like Bauke Molema did yesterday, is the most classy way to wine a bike race. Hat off for Bauke Molema.

We are now entering the third week of the tour, and there are less than 30 seconds between the first four riders. It will not be easy to take the yellow jersey away from Chris Froome. But nothing is decided. A puncture or another technical problem at a crucial point in the stage, or a crash (even if you are not crashing, but only get stuck behind it), can cost more than 30 seconds. Chris Froome has said that i panicked when he had to change his back wheel on Sunday, being afraid that he would not make it up to the group with the other GC-contenders.

When looking at the profile of today’s stage, we may think that a break away may succeed and go in. But unless they get strong wind, it can be hard wind in the Rhône valley, a bunch sprint is most likely. This is one of only two chances left for the sprinters before Paris, and they will probably not let riders get away. As a Norwegian, I am of course hoping for Edvald Boasson Hagen or Alexander Kristoff, but I hold another win for Marcel Kittel as more likely.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 16. Le Puy-en-Velay — Romans-sur-Isère

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 15. Laissac-Sévérac l’Église — Le Puy-en-Velay

As a Norwegian, I was of course hoping for Edvald Boasson Hagen yesterday. It was once again close, but no cigar. One second and two third places are not bad. But in this sport, particularly when it comes to the stages, “The winner takes i all”. The winner is remembered. But no one remembers nuber two and three.

It was a tactical blunder from Fabio Aru to sit far back in the peloton in the final, being behind several gaps, loosing time and loosing the yellow jersey. I doubt that Chris Froome will give it away once more before they reach Paris.

Today is another stage with some hard climbs (1st cat) and a descent to the finish. One of the ascents is new, and has never before been used in Tour de France. Romain Bardet is said to be the only rider who knows the area, and may have an advantage. The profile should also suit him, as a good climber and descender. Maybe it will be another French day.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 15. Laissac-Sévérac l’Église — Le Puy-en-Velay

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 14. Blagnac — Rodez

French stage win on the Bastille day, and the fourth French stage win, is very popular in France. Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana demonstrated that they cannot be written off. The situation between Chris Froome and Mikel Landa gives some flashback to Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome some years ago. With 6 seconds between Fabio Aru and CHris Froome, and 35 seconds between the first four, everything is open.

Today there is a good chance that a break away will succeed. The GC contender will not win time by attacking on this stage, and will probably not use energy to chase som riders who are no threat to them. The stage goes mainly slightly up, with no really hard climbs. The finish is a 570 m climb at 9,6%. It will not be a stage for the sprinters. It is difficult to pick favourites. It is a question of commin in the right break away.

The most interesting wine are along today’s stage is Gaillac.

Gaillac is one of many places that claims to be the first place where they started to produce sparkling wine. It is not possible to decide who was first. Sparkling wine was an accident. The finished wine that had stopped fermenting and was bottled some time in the late autoum, was not always completely fermented. But the low temperature had stopped the fermentation. When the temperature was rising in the spring, the fermentation started again i some bottles. Neither the bottles nor the corks were made for this pressures. Bottles exploded and corks popped. The oldest documented production of sparkling wine was i Limoux, where such procuction was documented in 1543. But having the oldest documentation, does not mean that they were first.

Both in Gaillac and Limoux, the produce sparkling wine with old method, in Limoux called Methode ancestrale, and in Gaillac Method gaillacoise. They use the same grape, Mauzac. In this process, there is no second fermentation. The wine is botteled before the fermentation has finished, and the fermentation continue in the bottles. A similar method is to some extent used in Loire, Die (Rhône) and Bugey. Dry wines are a rather modern fashion. Old fashioned wines, like the sparkling wines produced with this method are not dry. In my opinion, they are more interesting than good.

Gaillac is located by the river Tarn, which flows out in the river Garonne, which flows out in the ocean at Bordeaux. This is one of the areas whose wine were used to improve bordeaux wine, and did not get a reputation on its own, as we mentioned to stage 10, to Bergerac.

Gaillac is one of the oldest wine regions in France. Here it has been produced wine since Roman times, maybe even longer.

Gaillac is located between The Mediterranain and the Atlanctic, and is said to be able to produce wines both in the Atlantic and the Mediterranian style, as well as more typical inland style. The main wine growing areas are located west of Albi, where we find the best area Gaillac Premières Côtes. But there is also a smaller area east of the town.

In Gaillac they produce many types of wine, red, white, rosé and sparkling. It has been said that they produce som many different wines in Gaillac and they have to make up their mind. Versatility may have its advantages. But it can also lead to lack of identity. Helen Savage writes this in her wine blog:

“Gaillac is learning to be different. Its vineyards along the Tarn Valley in South West France were first planted by the Romans and it remains a land of proud traditions as well as of generous people. And it’s upon that long tradition that some growers there are daring to build a platform for future success.

(…) but Gaillac is a crossroads in more than one sense. Its splendid climate (…) is a unique mix of Atlantic, Mediterranean and Continental influences. Its vignerons can grow grapes suited to all three and make almost every style of wine imaginable, including pétillant (perlé), sparkling, dry and doux (but not liquoureux) whites, rosés, light, primeur summer-drinking reds and others high in tannin and extract that cry out for careful cellaring. It’s almost too easy. But that’s why they now have to make hard choices and leave others to grow Gamay, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. In a fiercely competitive market their future lies in doing what only they can do – and in making the most of their special red varieties Duras and Braucol (sometimes called Fer Servadou) and the local white varieties Loin de l’Oeil and Mauzac. Duras, for example, features in no other appellation. Gaillac wines taste like no others; and the best, almost all from these four grapes, are now beginning to make UK critics sit up and take notice.”

It is difficult to describe a typical Gaillac wine. It is easy to agree that Gaillac will not be very interesting as long as they follow the various trends in the wine world. It is local traditions and identity that makes a district interesting. Who cares about another Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot produced a place in France the few persona have heard of?

Grand Atlas des vignobles de France

2263046607This is the kind of atlas I would like to have for all wine producing countries in the world. Good  and detaield maps, with informative text. Could we wish for more? Some may wish for another laguage, as this is in French only.

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 13. Saint-Girons — Foix

Here in France, they are celebrating the third French stage victory, and a French rider in the polka dot jersey. It is better than French riders have been doing for years. Chris Froome is not unbeatable. The question now is if Sky will attack now, or if they will wait till they get to the Alps.

Today is Bastille Day, the French Natinonal Day. This is the day every French rider is dreaming of winning the stage. But for us Norwegians interested in cycyling, July 14 is also an important day. It is 30 years ago today, that Dag Otto Lauritzen as the first Norwegian rider, won a stage in Tour de France, the stage up to Luz Ardiden.

Dag Otto is an interesting case and an interesting personality. He was a policeman and a military parachuter before he became a cyclist. In 1980, at the age 23, he was severly injuried and nearly crippled in a parachute accident. The doctors gave him a 50% chance of being able to walk again after the accident. He took up cycling as retraining after the accident, and realised that he had a talent for cycling. Four years later, in 1984, he won the bronze medal in the Los Angeles olympics. And another three year after that, he won the Tour de France stage. Dag Otto often says that “Nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes more time”. In a way, he is a living proof. And it did not even take him very long to do the impossible. Today he is part of the crew of the Norwegian TV channel that is brodcasting Tour de France, TV2.

But we have to return to today’s stage. On paper, it does not look too hard. It is short, 101 km, with three category 1 climbs. It ends with a 26 km descent to Foix. I do not know how this descent is. But it tends to be hard riding at these kind of stages. The time limit (delay) will be rather short, and some riders may have problems finishing within the time limit.

Ariège is a departement often visited by Tour de France, either on the way into or out of hthe Pyrenees. For us who are searching for someting interesting to drink from the area, lokal beverages from Ariège is a challenge. If we are looking for something appropriate to celebrate the French national day, we have to search other places. Limoux is the closest district that has someting to offer for such an occation.

er et departement som Tour de France ofte er innom på vei til eller fra Pyreneene, og for oss som jakter på interessant, lokalt drikke er Ariège en utfordring. Hvis vi skulle jakte på noe som passer for å feire Frankrikes nasjonaldag, da må vi lete andre steder. Limoux er det nærmeste området som kunne hatt noe å by på til en slik anledning.

The French newpaper Le Figaro has a short overview overVin de Pays de l’Ariège. Here they write that Ariège is well known for its wins. Wine from this district, from the area around Mirepoix, was first mentioned in 971. Ariège wines were well knwon in medieaval times, but is long forgotten. It is a bit strange that they illustrate this overveiw with a map of wine districts in the South West, without Ariège on the map.

Each time the Tour is in this departement, I am searching for information om wines from here. Fraench Wikipedia has some more information. But this is also mostly about a glorious past, about wine growing in Pamiers in 1225, that the wine was popular in England, etc.

It says that there are 60 ha vineyard within the area classified as IGP Ariège, ana that the production in 2009 was 1800 hl, which is not much.

At the end of the 1990s som wine growers wanted to improve the quality of wine from Ariège. They wanted to produce wine from old and alomst forgotten grapes. The Magazine L’Express has an article about four friends who have come together to reestablish wines from Ariège, Quatre amis s’associent pour faire revivre le vin ariégeois. According to the article, they have established subscription for the wines, and the locals have preordered from a limited production. This is probably one reason why the wine is hard to find.

I was in Ariège and Foix last year, and as always, I tried to find local wine. To the local trout we had for dinner in our hotel’s restaurant, which should be one of the better restaurants in Foix, I asked for a local, white wine. I was given the choice between a Jurançon sec or a Gaillac, none of them very local in Foix. As we were arriving from Pau, and had Jurançon sec the day before, we went for Gaillac. I have to add that 75% of the wine from Ariège is red wine, and they had a local red wine. But red wine was not my choice to trout. Usually, restaurants are good places to tase local wine. The often find some good, hard to fine wines that they are proud to serve. But not here, at least not a white wine. I was thinking that they were not very proud of their wine.

I found a small wine merchant were I got some local wine, and bought a few bottles. But this was not very interesting wines. Next time I am in this district, I will again ask for local wine, and hope to taste some of the results of the quality improvement thas has been expected for some time. But it is not a wine I will try to find outside of this area..


Le Guide Hachette des vins

Of the three wine guide books I am usually consulting, Hachette is the only one to include some wines from Ariège. These are Dominik BENZ , Domaine de Lastronques and   Domaine du Sabarthès.

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 12. Pau — Peyragudes

Marcel Kittel is the King of the sprints this year. We got a new demonstration of power from him.

But we will not see much of Marcel Kittel and the other sprinters the next days. Now the riders are going into the mountains, and today there is a mountain top finish. The GC-contenders must show their cards, and start to attack Chris Froome.

I will start with the topography, and I like to use this sattellite image.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 12. Pau — Peyragudes