Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 4. Mondorf-les-Bains — Vittel

I came as no surprise that Peter Sagan won yesterday’s stage. But that he should win after treading out of the pedal, and having had to restart the spring, I head not expected. And it was not a surprise that Greg van Avermat should be among the best on a stage like this.

Stage 4 is flat. But the last kilometer is slightly uphill. It is not steep, only around 2% on average. But it could be enough to make the finish a bit too hard for the most typical sprinters. As a Norwegian, I can hope for Alexander Kristoff or Edvald Boasson Hagen. But we will always have to count on Peter Sagan.

The riders are going into the French departement Lorraine. We do not find very much interessting wine there. In the geography of wine, we are between Champagne and Alsace, and more or less at the same lattitude. It has been produced wine in Lorraine for long time. The romans brought with them vines to areas in Europe that they occupied, including to Lorraine. But as in so many places, quantity was more important then quality. It has also been said that they often did choose grapes that were not suited for the area where it was planted. After the phylloxera epidemy, that destroyes most of the vines in Europe, new vines were planted only in areas that had proven to give good quality. The wine growing areas were reduced significantly.

The production now is small. Moët & Chandon is the largest producer in Champagne. They alone produce 26 million bottles a year. Their prestige cuvée Dom Perrignon is a vintage champagne, produced only in good years. But the years it is produces, they produce ca 5 mill bottles. As a comparision, the total production in Lorraine is 1,2 mill bottles a year. The production of Dom Perrignon is four times as high at the total wine production in Lorraine.

The riders will first come into the wine district Moselle, as soon as they have crossed the border from Luxembourg to France. But the main part of this wine district is located to the west of Metz. They produce red, white and rosé wines. For their whites, they use gewurtztraminer, pinot gris, müller-thurgau and riesling. For the rosé they use pinot noir and gamay, and for the reds they use pinot noir.

A bit further south, near the town Toul, we have Côte de Toul. For the white wine they use aubin and auxerois, for red: Pinot noir, and for their grey wine: Gamay og Pinot noir.

Lorraine is known for their “vin gris“, or “grey wine”. Wine comes in more colours than the well known white, rosé and red. Basically, there are two processes for producing wine. In a white wine process, the skin, pepins and stems are sifted away before the fermentation. Then we get a rather colourless must, even if they use red/black grapes. It is possible to make a white wine from red/black grapes. In a red wine process, the skin, pepins and stems are fermented with the must, and the wine gets colour, taste etc from them. In the end of the fermentation, the wine is of course sifted to remove these parts. Do a little experiment. Buy some grapes. Peel off the skin and taste it. Chew the pepins and the stem, and the peeled, pepinless fruit. Then you have tasted some of the main components of the taste of the wine.

Rosé is made by a shortened red wine process. Skin, stems and pepins are fermented with the must for a short time, and then it is sifted. The wine gets some colour, and some taste from the skin, pepins and stems, but not as much as in red wine.

In “my” area in France, Languedoc, they produce vin gris, mainly along the coast, from grapes that has grown in a very sandy soil (vin de sable, sand wine). It is pink, not grey in colour. It looks like a rosé. I hade for some time wondered what is the difference between a rosé and a vin gris. I asked one of the local producers, Domaine du Petit Chaumont, who make both rosé andn vin gris. They explaned the basic processes for makin wine, and said that a vin gris is made from pink, or grey grapes, in a red wine process. This wine is often labeled “gris de gris”, which means grey from grey, grey wine from grey grapes. As for the colour grey: One often use the designations white and black grapes, and what is in between is grey.

But it seems that vin gris can mean several things, and if I have got it right, the vin girs of Lorraine is not the same as the vin gris, or at least not the same as the girs de gris, made in languedoc. They sift away some of the must from what will become a red wine after a few days, to consentrate the remains and get a wine that is more consentrated in taste and colour. This process is called “bleeding”. The must that is sifted away, becomes the vin gris.

One should always serve water with wine. We drink wine for the taste, water for the thirst. Vittel is a well known French spring water, and it is one of the sponsors of Tour de France. When in France, Vittel may be the water you drink with your wine. In restaurants you will often get either Vittel or Evian if you order bootled, still water at a restaurant. When we are in France, we usually drink bottled water. Tap water is ok and perfectly drinkable. But at least in our district, it does not taste as good as some of the bottled water. But we do not buy the famous brand name waters. We buy the standard water from the supermarket Carrefour, a water that comes from a spring in Auvergne. I have never compared the prices, but I am confident that the Carrefour water costs less than the brand name waters. But we buy it for the simple reason that in our opinion, it tastes better.

It usually does not make sense to buy imported, bottled water. It will be expensive, and the transport of water in bottles will use a lot of unnecessary energy.

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.

The Oxford Companion to Wine

0198705387If you want to have a more encylopedic book on wines, Jancis Robinsons and Julia Child: The Oxford Companion to Wine is the one to have. It is an encyclopedia of wine, with articles on not everything, but as close as you can get in one volume. It is written by on of the world's leading experts on wine.

I have the third edition, published in 2006. It is now in its foruth edition, published in 2015. A lot has happened in the wine business since 2006. So maybe I should get myself a copy of the most recent edition. It is available in hardcover edition and Kindle edition. When reading a book from beginning to end, I like Kindle. But when jumping around from one article to another, I prefer the paper version. An e-version of a book like this should be organized like a database, not as a "book".

Order from Amazon US: Kindle edition, or Hardcover edition.

Order from Amazon UK: Kindle edition, or Hardcover edition.


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

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia


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