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.

It is not easy to find wines along today’s stage. At least when it comes to wine, we are in the middle of nowhere. We can start by going 20-30 km to north west of the start town, to Marcillac. To be honest, Marcillac is closer to yesterday’s finish than today’s start. But we have to distribute sparse goods. Marcillac is located in the border area between the Massif Central and the high plains in Languedoc. Administratively, we are in Aveyron, but the landscape is part of Haut Languedoc (upper or high Languedoc). These high plains are on limestone (old sea bed), which locally are called causses.

Marcillac is a labyrinth of small valleys. The areas are protected by the mountains, and is facing south, giving a warm micro climate in Marcillac. The classified area is rather small, 180 ha, and the yearly production is 7 000 hl. It should be about 100 000 bottles.

90% of the production is the grape Mansois, which is the local name for Fer Sevardou. But they also grow the two “Bordeaux grapes” Cabernet souvignon and Merlot. The wine has deep red colour, and not very tanninic. It can be drunk young, but it can also be aged.

In the area, they produce the cheese Laguiole which goes well with Marcillac.

Marcillac is the most eastern of the western wine districts, and Gaillac, that we visited yesterday, is the most western of the eastern wine districts. Marcillac i on the west side of Massif Central, “looking” at the Atlantic ocean. Gaillac is on the eastern side, “looking” at the Mediterranian. But both are located at rivers that eventually flows out to the sea at Bordeaux, and the wines from both places were in the old days used to improve Bordeaux wines.

A bit closer to the departure town, about 10 km to the east, we come to the classified area Vins-d’Estaing. It is a rather small area, 18 ha, producing ca 600 hl wine. They do not produce any great wines, as far as I know. But there can always be some hidden gems somewhere.

From here to the finish, it is dry. At least when it comes to wine.

We are on the high plains, the causses. Here there are many sheeps, but not much wine. If we look at the profile of today’s stage, we see that it goes in the altitude of 400 to 1400 meters, mainly around 1000 meter. Usually, wine is not produced at such high altitudes.

We continue into the departement Lozere, one of the most sparesly populated departements in France. When I am in a wine producing area, I buy local wine if I can finde it. When we were in Lozere a few years ago, a bought a bottle of local wine in the restaurant where we had dinner. It was said to be one of the better wines from Lozere, a wine that should prove that they can make quality wine in this departement. It was a disappointment.

We continue into the departement Haut-Loire, which is Upper or High Loire. Loire gives many interesting associatinos to wine. But Loire is a long river, and the areas that have made Loire wines famous, are further down the river. Up where the stage ends, there is no wine to be found.

With so little wine, we can get some cheese. Making wine is a method for conserving grape juice, making cheese is a method for conserving milk. I have aldredy mentioned the cheese Laguiole. It is a hard cheese in the cheddar family, made from cow milk from the cattle race Aubrac. Today, we will think of cheddar as a cheese from the British Isles. But the romans learned how to make this kind of cheese here, and brought it with them to the British Isles. Salers is another cheese in the cheddar familiy, from this area.

The most well known cheese from this area, around the departure, is Roquefort, which is made from sheep milk. It shall be mautured in grottos in the area. All the known grottos are in use, so the production cannot be expanded. Everyone is free to make a blue cheese from sheep milk, but they cannot call it roquefort.

Other, less known cheeses made from sheep milk, are Pérail, Lavort and Tomme des Grandes Causses. The latter is a hard cheese.

Saint-Nectaire is a semi hard cheese, made from cow milk.

I cannot remember having seen goats in the area. But they must be there, as they produce cheese from goats milk. I am probably not the only one who has been thinking av chevre as a type of cheese. But chevre is the French word for goat. There are many cheese made from goat milk, and many types of chevre cheese. Some chevre cheeses from the area the riders will be going through today, are Briquette d’Allance, Bruyère de Joursac and Cabécou de Thiers.

All the cheeses mentioned, except Saint-Nectarine, are made from unpasturised milk. Saint-Nectarine can be made either from unpasteurised or pasteurised milk. I recommend a small cheese degustation to taste the difference between cheese made from pasteruised and upasteurised milk. Brie is not a protected geographical indication. Anyone is free to make a cheese and call it brie, and many do. But one of these bries, it ca very well be a French brie. The buy a real brie, a Brie de Meaux and/or Brie de Melun, which are both made from unpasteurised milk.The cheese made from unpasteurised milk has ha richer, but not necessarily stronger or sharper taste.

Tomorrow is the Tour’s second rest day.

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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Tour de France 2017

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