Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 11. Eymet — Pau

Another impressive sprint from Marcel Kittel. The other sprinters may be talking about their lead up trains. But Marcel Kittel accelerates on the outside, and get a much higher speed.

Today is another flat stage. It even goes slightly down the last few kilometers. It will be fast. I will not be surprised if Marcel Kittel takes home another victory. The GC teams will take it easy, try to stay out of trouble and save energy for the mountains ahead.

Today, we will have something stronger than the other days: Armagnac. Armagnac is a brandy made in a certain area in France, just as cognac is a brandy from the Cognac area in France. They make brandy many places, but armagnac and cognac can only be made in Armagnac and Cognac repspecitvely. Today’s stage goes through Armagnac.

Armagnac is the oldest form of French brandy. It has been produced since the 14th century. The production represents a blend of three cultures: The Romans introduced wine (as they had learned to make from the Greeks), the Arabs introduced destillation and the Celts introduced the barrels.

The production district in Armagnac is divided into three areas: Bas Armagnac, Haut Armagnac and Tenaréze. Only ca 1% is produced in Haut Armagnac, so in practise this is not an important area.

Armagnac starts as a rather bland white wine. It is made from grapes that give low alcohol and high acidity. Ten different grapes are allowed, but only the first four on this list are used.

  • Ugni Blanc 55%
  • Baco (aka Baco 22A) 35%
  • Folle Blanche 5%
  • Colombard 5%
  • Plant de Graisse
  • Meslier St François
  • Clairette de Gascogne
  • Jurançon blanc
  • Mauzac Blanc
  • Mauzac Rosé

The wine is then distilled. In Armagnac they usually use Alambic Armagnacais. These are often rather small, some are mobile.

The Alembic is made from copper. It is a continous process. Wine is filled in the wine vat at the top. The wine is used to cool the varpour in the distillation process, meaning that the wine is already heated when it comes to the coloumn and the boiler. The wine pour over some evapouration plates, and is spilled over to the next, before ending in the boiler. Wine and vapour are in contact in this process. The vaopur goes the the cooler, where it is condenced and pour into a barrel as armagnac.

Amagnac is distilled one time, to a strenght between 52 and 72,4% alcohol. They distill to high alcohol for finesse an armagnac not meant to be aged, and for Blanche Armagnac (armagnac that is not stored). Armagnac to be aged is distilled to lower alcohol to keep the fruity and the richness in the armagnac.

In 2005 the regulation was changed to allow the production of Blanche de armagnac, an armagnac that is not stored. I have not tasted this type of armagnac. The aging requirements for the various quality designation of armagnac, are:

  • VS: 1 year
  • VSOP: 4 years
  • NAPOLEON: 6 years
  • XO: 6 years
  • 20 years 20 years
  • Vintage: Single Harvest from the year on the label (minimum 10 years old)

The English wine merchant Berry Bros and Rudd has a wide selection Armagnac in various vintagees from 1893 to present. They used to have a duty free shop at one of the terminals at London Heathrow Airport. It was a small shop with a limited selection. But we could pre order from their entire catalogue, and pick it up when leaving. I used to order armagnac vintage 1955, the year I was born. I collected them for my 50 years birthday, which was some years ago. I still have some bottles left. Unfortunatley, they no longer have this shop. But my vintage is sold out, anyhow.

I find armagnac more interesting than cognac. More interesting does not necesarrily mean better, but more interesting. We often get armagnac from single producers, in idividual vintages. Cognac is generally, like champagne, a standardised product made and marketed by big cognac houses. A Martell VSOP shall taste like Martell VSOP, no matter when it is produced. They blend to make their signature cognac, with as consitent taste from year to year. I find products with more identity and personality, marked by where and when it is made, more interesting.

Back in time, it must have been i the late 1980s or in the 1990s, I had an interesting armagnac experience. We were at a restaurant in Oslo. They had a good selection of armagnacs. We noticed that they had at least two different vintages from the same producer, I think it was 1963 and 1971 (I do not remember the producer). What we found a bit strange was that the younger, the 1971, was more expensive than the older, 1963. There was only way to find out if this could be justified: We had to have one of each vintage. The 1971 was more balanced and rounded, compared to the rawer and less balanced 1963. I had not imagined that a product made from a bland white wine, and then distilled, could taste so different from one vintage to another.

There are more standardised brand of armagnac, and we see vintage cognac from single producers. But the general picture is different.

Armagnac often has a rawer, I am tempted to say masculin taste, compared to cognac. Maybe it is result of the distillation, where armagnac is distilled once, cognac twice.

Armagnac har ofte en litt råere, jeg er fristet til å si mer maskulin smak enn cognac, noe som antageligvis kan tilskrives at armagnac destilleres en gang, mens cognac vanligvis destilleres to ganger.

At Labastide d’Armagnac a chapel and a santuary for cyclists, Notre-Dame des Cyclistes. I came acorss this by chance when driving past the place a little more than a year ago. We saw the sign, turned in and stopped, without knowing anything about the place.

The chapel is all that remains of a 12th-century fortress of the Knights Templar. The Château de Géou was razed by the Black Prince in 1355.

On 22 August 1958, Father Joseph Massie, pastor of Créon-d’Armagnac, Mauvezin-d’Armagnac and Lagrange, was inspired by the chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo in Italy to make a similar chapel for cyclists. On 18 May 1959, Pope John XXIII agreed to make the old chapel a National Sanctuary of Cycling and Cyclists under the protection of the Virgin: Our Lady of cyclists (Notre-Dame des cyclistes). It has been turned into a museum, and many champions have donated jerseys to the museum. It is the last stage before the Pyrenees. But I do not think many riders will stop for a prayer before the mountains.

As many medieval towns, Labastide d’Armagnac has a nice square.

It is a nice place to sit down with a glass of armagnac.

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:

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 10. Périgueux — Bergerac

Warren Barguil believed he had won stage 9, and so did French TV. He was inverviewed as winner by French TV when he got the message that Rigoberto Uran had won. It is brutal to get this message on direct television, when you thought you were a winner. It was photo finish, but this time the pictures left no doubt. It was clear that Rigoberto Uran was first. Lesson to learn: Do not start a victory interview before the result is official. It was an impressive win by Rigoberto Uran, with only two gears.

There were horrible craches. Geraint Thomas has crashed four times in this Tour, and had to retire with broken collar bone after the last crash. The most shocking crash was Richie Porte down from Mont du Chat. As far as I have been able to fine information, the injuries are not as bad as one could fear after such a horrible crash. Fractured pelvis and fractured collarbone, but so bad as operation is needed. And of course a lot of roas rash. My undestanding is that they are wating for his condition so be stabele enough for him to be sent home. We can only hope for the best, and wish him a good recovery.

Stages like Sunday’s stage are brutal in many ways. With so much up and down, with not much in between the climbs, the sprinters do not get a chance to catch up with some of what they looses in the climbs. The main looser this time was FDJ. I cannot understand their decision to sacrifice three riders to give the captain company when he was ill and it was obvious that he would not be able to finish within the time limit. Thanks to that, FDJ lost four riders on this stage.

Today is another flat stage. Normally, I would say that it will be another bunch sprint. The GC-contenders will save energy for the Pyrenees, and their teams will not do much work on the two flat stages before the next mountain stages. The sprint teams will have to do the work to control the stage. But it is the second week and the first stage after the rest day. Maybe a break away will make it to the finish on this stage.

We have moved from the mountains in the east, to the forests in the west.

After the rest day, the riders start in Perigeux in Dordogne, in the distrct called Perigord. It is a place well worth a visit. I was there a little more than a year ago. We cycled, but it was only relaxed rides on forest roads and some paths. In the culinary world, Dordogne is known for products from ducks and geese, like Confit de Canard and Foie gras. And for truffes.

Perigord is often divided into four part, each given a colour: Pergord Vert (green), Perigord Blanc (white), Perigord Noir (black) and Perigord Pourpre (purple).

The departure town, Perigeurd, is in Perigord Blanc. The area got this name from the light limestone that dominates the areas. To the north is the foresty Perigord Vert, but we are not going there today.

The entire area where the riders will cycle today, has a lot to offer.

From Periguex the riders go to Perigord Noir. It is an area with large oak forests, known for its truffes. Here we also find Grotte de Lascaux, with its famous wall paintings. The world’s oldest artwork.

From here, the riders turn west towards Perigord Poupere. Poupre represents the colour of the vines in the autoumn. Here we find the wine district Bergeracois.

Kart av Cyril5555, Wikimedia common, CC BY-SA 3.0

Bordeaux did not get its position in the wine market just by producing the best wine. If we go back a few hundred years, before they had drained the soil properly, the wine from Bordueax was not very good. But Bordeaux has a strategic location, even more strategic then than now. Good from along the rivers that flow out in the sea at Bordaux, like Gironde, Dordogne and Lot, sent their good on boats down the rivers to be sold in, and resold from Bordeaux. The wine from up the rivers was better and had more body than the wines produced in Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, it was blended with Bordaux wine and sold as Bordeaux wine. It has also been said that the merchants in Bordeaux refused to ship wines from other regions, before all the Bordeaux wine was sold. By blending wine from among other regions, Bergerac, into Bordaux wine, Bordaux wine got a reputation for being better then the wine acutally produced in Bordaux. An the wines from the districts upstream remained unknown, as it usually was not sold under its own name.

I think of Bergerac first and foremeost as a red wine district. But they produce whie and rosé wines too, as they do in Bordeaux.

Bergerac rouge is made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is a fruity and rather light wine that should be drunk young.

Côtes-de-Bergerac is made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives a more structured wine. It is a wine that can be stored.

In Pecharmant they produce only red wine. The wines are made with a grape blend that more or less reflects the grape production in the area: . 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cot (Malbec). The wine has often been stored in oak barrels. It gives a fruity and generous wine that can be stored for some time. Of the red wines from the region, the wines from Pecharmant are often the best.

On Dordogne’s left bank, south of the town Bergerac, they produce the sweet white wine Monbazzillac. It is produced from the grapes Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon blanc. The micro climat in the area often causes the grapes to get noble rot, which is not really a rot, but a funghi that perforates the skin. The water evaoprates, giving a very concentrated must, high in sugar, just as in the more well konwn district Sauternes. som egentlig ikke er en råte, men en muggsopp. Skallet perforeres, slik at vannet fordamper. Resultatet er en konsentrert most med høyt sukkerinnhold, som i det mer kjente området Sauternes.

To the west of Monbazzilac is the area Saussignac where they produce a rather similar sweet wine, but not of the same quality as in Monbazzilac.

Wines from this area cannont compete with the top wines from Bordeaux. But we do not have to pay as much for the label, as we do when we buy a Bordaeax, also when we are buying wines that are not from the top producers. Wines from the area around Bergerac are very good wines, and they often give better value for money than the more famous wines from Bordeaux.

When the boat men had transported their goods down to Bordeaux, they often bought dried fish (cod), Stockfish, that came from Norway. We Norwegians love to find Norwegian connections. They hang it from the stern of their boats when rowing up the rivers, and when they returend home it was rehydrated so it was eatable. They mix it with mashed potatoes and walnut oil, to a dish called Estofinade.

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
Amazon US

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 9. Natuna — Chambréy

They did not have to measure differendes in 1/10 000s of a second yesterday. And in France they are enthusiastic about another French stage win.

Today, the riders are facing hard climbs. The final part of this stage is more or less the same as stage 6 in this year’s Criterium du Dauphiné. Those who rode this race may have an advantage when knowing the ascent, and even more the technical descent from Mont du Chat realtively fresh in memory. But the stage is still very different. In Dauphiné the riders had been over a third category before climing Mont du Chat, with a fourth category before they started the HC-climb. Today the riders have been over one second category, two third category and two HC before they start the last climb.

I cycled along the Rhône river from the start in the Swiss Alps to the Mediterrenian se last summer. Part of my route followed the route the riders will cycle today. But my stage was “only” 115 km, compared to the TdF stage of 181,5 km. And more important: I followed the river as much as possible, and did not climb the mountains. Our routes meet at Bassy, where the rides cross the river, or rather rivers Les Usses. From there we cycled more or less the same route to Seyssel, where I had planned to stay over night, but I could not get a room. It is anice place.

It was at this hotel I tried to get a room, but it was fully booked.

Here the riders cross over to the right bank, and start the climb to Col de la Biche and further on to Grand Colombier. I stayed on the bike path along the river, on the left bank.

20160624105626Jeg fulgte Circuit des vignoblbes de Savoie.

20160624111016The riders are climbing Grand Colombier the same way as last year, but the descent is different. Our routes crosses at this roundbout just outside Culoz.

I am sure it will be decorated with a bike this year as well. The riders in the TdF keeps on the main road, but I followed the cycling path at the same side of the Rhône to Cressin Rochefort. From here, I continued along the Rhône, while the riders cross the river and start the climb to Mont du Chat before they ride down to Chambéry.

But I have to stop playing with my memories, and get back to the Tour.

Between the mountains, we are for the most part in the rather unknown wine region Bugey, between Jura and Savoie. Bugey got AOP-classification in 2011. The wines from Bugey will often have a geogrephical name after the designation Bugey.

Bugey

We can start with the wine that is calle Bugey, with no other names added. It can be produced in the entire area. They produce red, white and rosé, as well as white and rosé sparkling wine.

The white wine is made with 70% chardonnay. In addition they can use the grapes alligoté, altesse, jacquère, mondeuse blanche and pinot gris.

The red wine is made from gamay, mondeuse noire and pinot noir.

The rosé shal have at least 70% gamay and/or pinot noir. It is said in the criterias that it shall be white juice from gamay, meaning that it cannot be skin contact during the fermentation, and that the colour must come from pinot noir. In addition, they can have mondeuse noir, pinot gris and poulsard. I do not know the process for producing this wine, as it seems to be a blend of black/red grapes, white jucie from black/red grapes, as well as pink grapes.

White sparkling wine shall have at least 70% chardonnay, jacquère and molette. In addition it can be aligoté, altesse, gamay noir (white juice), mondeuse blanche, mondeuse noire, pinot gris, pinot noir and poulsard.

Sparkling wine shall be made with second fermentation in the bottle, and shall rest at least nine months at the remains of yeast etc (sur lie).

As I have said, one can some places put a geographical name after Bugey. The first such area we come to is Bugey-Cerdon. If I have got it right, which I do not guarantee, the cool climate and long winters stopp fermentation, and the second fermentation starts in the spring, without rebottling. This wine shall be labeled “Methode Ancestrale”. It is a sparkling wine very low in alcohol.

For the other geographica areas, there are in genereal stricter criterias when it comes to grapes, with fewer allowed additional grapes, compared to the basic Bugey.

In the area Roussette du Bugey, they make white wine from the grape Altesse, or Roussette as it called locally. THis is a grape I think of as typical for Savoie.

It is not easy to find wine from Bugey outside the region. And if I shall be honest, there are no reason to search for it, unless you are interested in tasting the wine. Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir are grapes they grow many places, where they usually give better wines, at least based on my rather limited experience with wines from Bugey. Rousette de Bugey may have a more distinct character, but I have to admit that I have not tasted it. But Rousette de Savoie is a good and interesting wine, proving that Rousette is a good and interesting grape.

After the riders have crossed the final mountain, they arrive in Savoie. Savoie is in my opinion an underestimated wine region. The production is small. We can go straight to the finish, and find a wine from Cluse de Chambéry in Savoie.

Cluse de Chambéry is divided into six crus.

Chignin is, according to Grand Atlas des vignobles de France, regarded as the wine capital in Savois.

The area Cru Chignin-Bergeron is, still according to Grand Atlas des vignobles de France, the very best area. But the production is small, only 315 hl per year, which should be aroung 50.000 bottles.

North of Chignin we find Cru Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré. It is 20 ha where they produce 460 hl or a little less than 70.000 bottles per year.

Further north is Cru Monterminod, which is eve smaller. The yearly production is only 150 hl or 22.500 bottes. This is a very sought after wine.

Further west are to larger areas, Cru Apremont and Cru Abymes, where they produce respectively 26.000 and 20.000 hl a year.

After this stage, there is a well deserved 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.

Order from:

Amazon FR
Amazon UK
Amazon US

How to find the best French wines?

I could have added: The best wines in a region or in a category. When I am searching for good wine producers in France, be it to find wines along the Tour de France roue, or wines I would like to taste and maybe buy, I use three books to orient myself. There are (too) many wine producers offering wine tasting. We cannot just visit them randomly. Then we risk to taste a lot of uinteresting wines, and miss the better wines. When I visit a producer and taste their wines, I feel a pressure to buy some wine, despite that I know I can just say merci beaucoup, and leave. It is necessarry to do some research, and find the wine producers to visit. For this purpose, I use the three books. There are three books, published yearly. Now I use the 2017-editions. I always have problems deciding which is the better one, and end up buying all three. Some of the books are available in Kindle, versions, but for this kind of books, I prefer the paper versions. I have to add that these books are in French only.

Le Guide des Meilleurs vins de France

This book is published by the Wine Magazine La Revue du Vin de France. This is in practise my favourite, and the the book in which I start searching first. But I cannot say that it is better than the others

This year's edition covers  1120 producers and  6592 wines.

Buy from

Le Guide Hachette des vins

For me, this is the book I consult as number two. I have no other explanation than that this was the second of these book I got to know. It includes more wines than Le Guide des Meilleurs vins de France

Buy from

Guides des vins. Bettane + Desseauve

I started to buy this book to have all three. As it was the third book I got to know, it has become the third book I consult. But this is a habit, more than a result of critical evaluation.

Buy from

Guides to reasonably pirced wines

There are guidebooks for reasonably priced wines. I have bought a few of them, but has stopped buying them. This does not mean that I am snobbish (or rich), and only drink expensive wines. Most of the wines I am drinking is reasoably priced. Reasonable wines are not excluded from the books mentioned. If there is a resonably priced wine of high quality, you will find them in these books. But I am searching for good wines, not cheap wines. I am not trying to locate a producer because of its cheap wines. Then I choose one of the wines I find in the supermarkets when I am in France.

Some Wine Magazines

In addition to these books, I read about wine in quality newspapers back home in Norway. But I see not point in mentioning the Norwegian newspapers in this English language version. I also read regularly two French wine magazines,  La Revue du Vin de France and Terre de Vins. The latter is published in Languedoc, and has a kind of southern profile. I also read the English wine magazin Decanter.

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Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 8. Dole — Station des rousses

Can anyone tell who was first here? I cannot see any difference. If there ever can be a draw, with both  crossing the line at the same time, it must be this. On the other hand. Marcel Kittel had a very strong sprint, and had higher speed than Edvald Boasson Hagen. 20 cm shorter, and a clear win to Edvald Boasson Hagen, 20 cm longer, and a clear win to Marcel Kittel.

Stage 8 goes from Dole tol Staion des Rousses. It has a count down before the hard climbs tomorrow, with three climbs in this order: Third, second and first category.

After yesterday’s stage through Côte-de-Nuits, the next stage has to be anti climactic. We are going into Jura. Jura is not on the same level as Burgynd, but they make very good wines that do not get the attention they deserve. Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 8. Dole — Station des rousses

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 7. Troyes — Nuits-Saint-Georges

Marcel Kittel had a strong and impressive sprint yesterday. And we Norwegians loved to see strong riding from Vegard Stake Laengen.

Today is another flat stage that will probably end in a bunch sprint.

This is the wine stage of this year’s Tour. We start in Champagne, but I will not add anything to what I wrote yesterday. But as an aperitif, nothing is better than champagne.

The stage passes not far from Chablis. On drier stages, we would be happy to make detours longer than this, to find a wine as good as chablis. But today, we don’t do that. Today’s stage ends in the heart of Burgundy, and we go to the end. I see no reason to stop before we get there. In Burgundy, they produce red wine from Pinot Noir and white from Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Chardonny do not get any better than they to in Burgundy, at least if we keep champagne out of the comparision, and we have to pay for the quality. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do not get more exepensive than they do in Burgundy. They also make a very good sparkling wine, Crémant de Borgogne, but I will only cover still wines.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 7. Troyes — Nuits-Saint-Georges

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 6. Vesoul — Troyes

No surprise with victory to Fabio Aru. The big question now is: Will Chris Froome stay in yellow to Paris? It may be a bit earlier than he wanted, to avoid spending too much time on the official program the leader of the race has to be part of, every day. From now, the other GC-contenders will have to attack, while Sky and Chris Froome can sit back and wait and see.

Today’s stage is flat, and will probably end in another mass sprint. The Tour will never be the same without Peter Sagan. I still think he was punished too hard.

I am closing the circle. Stage 12 in 2009, from Tonnerre to Vittel, passed through this area, Aube. French TV often cover life along the stage, before the riders arrive. Le doyen of French sport journalism, Gerhard Holtz, presented champagne from this area. At that time I did not know that they produced champagne in this area, and I got the idea to explore wines along the Tour de France stages. In 2010, i started the blog series “Les vins du Tour de France”, in Norwegian, despite the French title. Now we are back in this area again.

with Côte des Bar som det viktigste produksjonsområdet, Fransk TV pleier å ha innslag fra livet og aktiviteter langs etappen, før syklistene kommer. På denne etappen var Gerhard Holtz her og smakte på og snakket om champagne. På det tidspunktet var jeg ikke klar over at man kunne produsere champagne også i dette området. Da fikk jeg ideen om å se hva slags vin man finner langs de ulike etappene, og serien “Les vins du Tour de France” så dagens lys i 2010. Nå er vi tilbake i det samme området. Man skal aldri la sjansen til å drikke champagne gå fra seg. Så selv om vi kommer tilbake til champagne under finalen i Paris, så kan vi ta et glass eller to i dag også.

Champagne is a sparkling wine made from grapes grown in designated areas within Champagne. They are making sparkling wine many places, and many produce good sparkling wines. But only sparkling wine from Champagne, made according to the rules for making champagne, kan be called champagne. Champagne starts as a still, white wine. It is usualy stored for a long time. TMost of the champagne we are buying, from well known and wll marketed brands, are blended from many such wines, often from different vintages. The blending, or making of the cuvées is a difficult process that requires a lot of expreince and great skills. The cuvées will change a lot during the second fermentation, and the blenders must be able to forsee the end result.

Then some must and yeast is added, and the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. It is stored for long time, sur lie, meaning on the remains of dead yeasts and other by products from the frementation. The bottles are slowly rotated and turned uside down, som that the yeast etc sinks down to the neck. The neck is frozen, the bottle is opened and the pressure in the bottle shoot out the little frozen block. Then some wine is added, the bottles are corked and labeled, and after being stored for another few months, they are ready for the market.

The ares where today’s stage ends, has not been fully accepted as part of the good champagne company, even though they have the right to call their wines champagne. In 1911, there was an uproar among the champagne producers further north in Champagne, in them more well known towns Reims and Epernay. They wanted to exclude Aube from the rank of chamåagne producers. They were relegated to some kind of a second class status. It was not before 1927 that they again were accepted as proper champagne producers. In Aube, they mainly produced grapes that were delivered to the champagne houses in Epernay and Reims.

Champagne is made from tree different grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. In Aube they mainly gros Pinot Noir. The production is 87% Pinot Noir, 7% Cardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. 50% of the Pinot Noir grown in Champagne is grown in Aube.

The producers of champagne are usually divided into two main groups: NM: Négociant-Manipulant and RM: Récoltant-Manupulant. There are more, but we leave it with that. An NM may grow their own grapes, and buy grapes from other growers. A RM will grow their own grapes and use them in their production of champagne. Most of the well known champagne houses are NMs. Few of them would admit that they were buying grapes from Aube, or they would only admit that they used small quantities. They were looking down at the producers in Aube, and still regarded them as second rate growers.

Geographically, Aube is closer to Chablis than to the champagne towns Reims and Epernay. There has been a very intersting development among at least som of the producers in Aube. In the best area in Aube, Côte-des-Bar, they are more inspired by Burgundy than the producers further north in Champagne. The key word is Terroir.

The well known champagne houses want their champagne to have consistent taste from year to year. A standard, non vintage Moêt & Chandon shall taste like Moêt & Chandon, and not have the character from a grape grow. They say that champage is too much recipies and too little terroir. They want to change that.

Even though they mainly grow Pinot Noir, they also produce excellent Chardonnay, in particular in Montgeueux, a little west of today’s finish town, Troyes. The major champagne houses have been talking down this area. But there are exceptions.The late Daniel Thibault, from the two Reims based chamapgne houses Charles- and Piper-Heidesieck, was a strong admirer of chardonnay from Montgeueux, which he called “Champagne’s Montrachet”. For those who do not know Montrachet: It is the top of white wines from Burgundy.

Tom Stevenson writes about Montgeuex:

“The hill Montegeuex on the western side of Troyes is perhaps the trendiest source of grapes in Champagne at the moment. The pure chalk soil, very different from the rest of Aube, produces wonderfully structured, spicy and mineral Chardonnay.”

In general, I find products with a character form their place of origin more interesting than standardised brand name products. It does not mean that the major champagne houses do not produce good champagne, or that champagne from small producers always are better. But wines with character of terroir are always more interesting. Often, small producers give better value for money. They do not spend as much on marketing as the major champagne houses. And in the end, it is us, the consumers, who pay for this marketing when we buy the products.

I learn something new all the time. This is why I do this, and this is what makes it interesting to search for wines along the stages in Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. In 2009, I learned that this area is part of Champagne, and that they do produce champagne here. I did not study this area in any depth at that time, and my impression was still that Aube and Côte-des-Bar were second rate producers who had worked their way into the good company, but were still not invited to sit at the main table. Now that we have returned to this area, I find it much more interesting.

Working with the stages in Tour de France is frustrating in the way that the stages are published only about a month before the start. They publish an overview with start and finishing town in october the year before, and a very rough overview of the stages. This, in contrast to Giro d’Italia, who publishes maps of the stages in october the year before. It is not possible to go into the details of the stages before the beginning of June. When I find wine districts that are unknown to me, or that turns out to be much more interesting than I was aware of, there is not enough time to do empirical studies and actually taste the wines. (Many of the lesser known wines are often hard to find outside their home districts.) I have to rely on litterature, and note that these are wines I have to taste when I get a chance to do so.

I was in Champagne a few months ago. But I was in Reims and Eperany, and my impression is that these are not the places to look for champagne from Côte-des-Bar. These are champagnes from this area I have noted as interesting, and will taste when there is an oportunity.

New York Times name these producers (in an article from 2011, and a lot can have happened since that time):

  • Céderic Bouchard
  • Donson & Lepage
  • Drappier
  • Fleury
  • Jacques Lassaigne
  • Marie-Courtin
  • Jean Velut
  • Vouette & Sorbéee

In addition to these, Tom Stevenson mention these:

  • Horiot
  • Serge Mathieu

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.

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.

 

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.

 

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

 

 

 

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 5. Vittel — La planche des belles filles

Peter Sagan’s tackling of Mark Cavendish was ugly and dangerous. But a lot happens in a spirnt, when the adrenaline is boiling. I think the reaction was too hard. But I am not going to discuss this. But three personalities are now out of the Tour: Valverde, Cavendish and Sagan.

Today, the finish is at the top of a first category climb. This is not a stage for the sprinters. It may be a too early to expect attacs from the GC-contenders. But some typical climbers will probably go for a stage win.

When a stage in the Tour in 2012 ended at La planche des belles filles, we could read at the Tour de France site that the placed after the women in the valley tried to escape the vikings who invaded the area in the 1400s. The vikings have been blamed for much, often with reason. But they have had their historiy written by their enemies. More recent research have shown that they were more traders than the myths tell us. But apart from that, I have never heard that they travelled up in the mountain areas in France. It is most common to say that the age of the vikings ended in 1050, som will say that it ended with the battle of Hastings in 1066. But it defiently did not last until the 1400s. According to French Wikipedia the place is named after an episode i 30 years war in 1635, when the women fled from Swedish soldiers. We Norwegians love when we can blame the Swedes. And the 30 years war was long after the age of the vikings had ended.

Today it is difficult to find wine. We start and for the most of the day stay in the departement Vosges, and as far as I have found, there are no classified wines producec in this departement, not even on IGP-level. But we can at least bring some water from the start.

When searching for information, I came across vin bleu, or blue wine. It is made from the grapes Oberlin and Kuhlmann, both are unknown to me. They have applied for protection, but I have not read about the result of the process. The production is small, ca 10 000 liter per year. It will not be easy to find this wine outside of the district.

The stage ends in the departement Haute-Saône, in the IGP classified district Franche-Comté Haut Saône. They produce red, rosé and white, but this is as much I know.

The finish is at the top. If we will find interesting wine, we have to roll down on the other side, and a bit north, to Alsace. I will not go into the details, we will do that a year the Tous visits Alsace.

I recommend cycling in Alsace. Cycling and wine is a good combination, and Alsace is a good place to make the combination.

Colmar is a good point of departure for cycling trips to the wine producers in Alsace. If Colmar is your base camp, you can make many day trips out in the vineyards and to the producerss.

You can find many small, romantic villages in Alsace.

Alsace is further south than Rheingau and Mosel. The grapes ripen better, and they do not have the same problems with low sugar. In Alsace they have been making dry riesling for a long time, longer than in Germany. After I had had enough of semidry, German wines, I turned to Alsace for riesling. But now they make good, dry wines in Germany. I am rediscovering German wines.

In Alsace, they make white wines from Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer ad riesling, They also make red wine from Pinot Noir, and a very good Crémant d’Alsace.

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 3. Verviers — Longwy

Marcel Kittel won a histoic stage win, as it was the first stage win in Tour de France on a bike with disc brakes

Stage 3 starts a bit outside of Liege, goes through Luxembourg and ends in France. The finish is uphill. Not more than a third category, but I think it will not be a stage for the typical sprinters.

This year it is 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed and the EEC was formed. March 25 1957, representatives from the six original countries, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands met where Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg met, in what is called Ouren on the German side and Lieler on the Luxembourg site, to sign the treaty. It is only a few kilometers southwest of the place the riders cross the border from Belgium in to Luxembourg.

Luxembourg is a small country, but has a central position in EU. They have the European Court of Justice, and currently the president of the EU commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. But as a wine country, it is rather unsignificant. In their “The World Atlas of Wine”, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson have not given Luxembourg its own headline. But in the section on Mosel, they write some phrases about Luxembourg. But Tom Stevenson has included Luxembourg in his World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling wine.

I have one memory of Luxembourgian wine. Many years ago, we were driving into Luxembourg after having spent a few days in Champagne. Out of curiosity and with some trepidation, I ordered a bottle of Luxembourgian, sparkling wine for dinner. It was made by traditional method, and the person who served us assured us that it was good. After having been spoiled, by only drinking champagne for some days, it was a let down. I do not remember the wine, but I remember the disappointment. But it was more than 30 years ago, and things may have changed. According to Tom Stevenson, things have changed:

“Most Luxembourg sparkling wine used to be tank-method and very bland i style. However, the introduction of the Crémant de Luxembourg appellation in 1991 for traditional-method wines has improved standards significantly, and Luxembourg producers now make Crémant of much higher quality than many of their French Crémant colleagues.”

The production of sparkling wine in Luxembourg started in a way when the champagne house Mercier established a production in Luxembourg in 1885. They produced champagne. The regulations were probably not as strict then as they are now. They imported wine from Champagne, and the second fermentation took place in Luxembourg. By doing this, they could get covered by a custom treaty between Germany and Luxebourg, avoiding high duties on sparkling wine imported in bottles from France to Germany.

Tom Stevenson writes that the first sparkling wine made with traditional method was made by Bernard-Massard in 1921. I interpret this as this was the first wine made with grapes grown in Luxembourg, and a wine fulle made in Luxembourg. But even though they grow grapes in Luxembourg, they also produce a lot of wine from imprted grapes. Bernard-Massard also do this.

Bernard-Massard is, still according to Tom Stevenson, the only producer in Luxembourg with ambitions of getting an international reputation. But the producer who gets the highest score in his book, is Desom. I realise that I have to give Crémant de Luxembourg a second chance next time I am in Luxembourg. I do not think it will be easy to find Luxembourgian wine other places than in Luxembourg.

The wines produced in Luxembourg are mainly produced further east than today’s stage, at the west bank of the river Mosel, which constitutes the border between Luxembourg and Germany. I will jump a small, virtual boat and float downstrem Mosel, into Germany. There we can find some very ineresting wines.

When I was young, I used to drink a lot of semi dry Mosel wine, like: Reiler vom Heisenstein, Saar-Rieling and Piesporter. I think many around the same age have been drinking these wines too.

I had planned to write that Mosel is about as far north as it is possible to grow grapes for wine production, at least before we see the full effect of the climate change. But when doing research for this, I found that they are producing wine in the valley Ahr, north og Mosel. This was new to me. I was a bit surprised to learn that they are mainly producing red wine from Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder as it is usually called in Germany. But we will stay in Mosel.

Mosel, or Moselle as it is called in France, and Musel in Luxembourgish, starts in the Massif de Vosges in France, near Ballon d’Alsace. It flows through the departement Lorraine. From where France, Luxembourg and Germany meet (at Shengen), it becomes the border river between Luxembourg and Germany, before it continues in Germany and flows out in the Rhine river in Koblenz. As the river flows through the Mosel valley, we can clearly see the effect of meandering. It is a beatuyful landscape, with small romantic towns like Bernkastel, and good wine. It is a good place to visit. I think I will cycle along the Mosel river from Ballon d’Alsace to Koblenz some time in the future.

We can start in Schengen, a name most people, at least in Europe, will think of as a treaty, and not a place. But it is a small town in Luxembourg. At the left bank of Mosel is Luxembourg, at the right bank Germany, the area called Obermosel. On German side they mainly frow a grape calle Elbling. I do not know the grape, but it is said to have a rather neutral character. It is mainly used for production of sekt. It is also grown in Luxembourg, along with Müller-Thurgau and Auxerrois. I Luxembourg chaptalising, meaning adding sugar to the must, quite common.

At Konz in Germany, the river Saar flows out in Mosel, and a bit further down, by Ruwer the river Ruwer is added. Both in Saar and Ruwer, they produce good riesling, but we will not go up these valleys. A bit down from Trier, by the small town Sellig, we enter Mittelmosel. It is from here to Zell, we find the good wines from Mosel.

In Mosel, as in many other places in Geramny, low sugar content in the grapes has lead to a production of semi dry wines. It seems like a paradox that low sugar level should lead to semi dry, and not dry wine. But low sugar gives low alcohol. Alcohol has a kind of sweetness. It does not really taste sweet, but it balances the acidity in the wine. In addition to that, it gives the wine body. Dry wines, low in alchol, tend to taste thin and sour. To compensate for low alcohol, they stopped the fermentation when it was still some sugar left. The fasion changed. The market wantet dry, white wines, and the semi dry German wines went out of fashion. The climate change has so far had positive effect in Mosel, and now they produce excellent, dry wines. Having said that, I will add: Semi dry white wines usually goes well with spicy food, Asian food and sushi.

The great wines from Mosel are made from riesling. But the riesling only ripen in ideal places, steep slopes facing south, where they get a lot of sun exposure. At the ideal places, the sun is also reflected from the river, up to the vineyards. Other plasces, they grow grapes like Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner, which do not give as good wine as riesling.

Our first stop is Trittenheim. The best vineyard here is Apotheke. We continue to Piesport, the town that has given name to this part of Mittelmosel. Piesport is located in a curve in the river, with many south facing vineyards that create an amphi. The most well known and the best vineyard is Goldtröpfchen. Other well knwon vineyards are Domherr, Falkenberg, Gärtchen, Grafenberg, Günterslay, Hofberger, Kreuzwingert, Schubertslay and Treppchen. Further down the river, there is a hill on the left bank down to Minheim, a hill that protects the Piesport area from cold winds from east. After passing Minheim, we come to the area Wintrich and Kesten, where the vineyard Ohligsberg is the most well known. Piesport is used as a designation for all wines from the area, or as Grosslage i German. I do not think that there are many grapes from the famous vineyards in the generic Piesporter. The Piesporter from my youth was not a high quality wine. If it had been, I would not have had money to buy it. When I was young, the price of the wine was more important than the quality.

We continue downstream to Bernkastel. Here we find the most famous and best vineyard in Mosel: Doktor. Some say Bernkastel Doktor is the best vineyard in Germany. I do not know the vinyards well enough to say which is the better: Bernkastel Doktor or Erbach Markobrunn in Rheingau.

The grapes are grown in steep slopes. Most of the work must be done by hand.

If we compare Mosel and Rheigau, Mosel is “leaner”, and at their best more elegant. A good Mosel is an excellent wine.

If we continue downstream, we come to Graach and the vineyard Graacher Himmelreich. From here we come to Wehlen, and the vineyard Whelener Sonnenuhr. Further down is Zeltingen with Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. I include Reil further down. We have passed the more intesting part of Mosel. In my younger years I had many bottles of Reiler vom Heissen Stein.

I end in Zell, where they produce the wine Zeller Scwarze Katz, another wine I used to drink when I was young.

I have to admit that I have not been drinking very much Mosel wine in more recent year. But it is time to renew my relationship with these wines. I have noticed that the producer Markus Molitor, has high quality wines in many price segment.

If we continue down Mosel, we arrive in Koblenz, where it flows out in the Rhine at Deutsches Eck.

The circle is closed, and we are back where we were yesterday. We have to get back to the Tour. Those who are really fit may ride a bicyle. But it will be 225 km ride, which is too long for me. The Train from Koblenz to Luxembourg city takes 2 hours and 23 minutes. From there it is 36 km to today’s finish town. It is possible to continue by train, at least almost to the French border, but i have noe checked the schedule.

The stage ends in one of France’s rust belts. Here it used to be mining and industry. I was in the area where today’s stage ends, a few years ago. In Hussigny-Godbrange, the small town where the riders turn left before starting on the last small climbs before the finish, there were closed mines. I grew up in an industial area, and is nostalgic when it comes to industry. I find closed down industry depressing.

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.

Wine Atlas of Germany

You will find the most detailed information on German wine districts and vineyards in "Wine Atlas of Germany". Here you will find detailed information. But there is a problem, and in my opinion a serious problem. The English version is an English 2014-translation of a German book published in 2007.  The English edition is not updatede compared to the German edition. This is what makes the problem serious. German wine classificaton was changed in 2012. This is mentioned in the introduction to the English version. They knew that the book was outdated at the time of publication of the English version. Then, what is the point? If you cannot update, why publish the outdated book? We get nice, detailed maps. The vineyards are still located and named as they were in 2007. But the classification and other information about these vineyards are outdated. The maps of German wine districts in i Hugh John­son and Jancis Robinson “The World Atlas of Wine” are more updated, but less detailed..

Buy from

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.

 

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.

 

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

 

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 2. Düsseldorf — Liege

Tony Martin did not satisfy his home fans. It was sad to see Alejandro Valverde and Ion Izagirre  crash out of the race.

Today some riders will go in a break away, and will try to get points to get the polka dot jersey. But the stage will probably end in a bunch spirnt.

As I wrote in the introduction to this year’s Tour, I was disappointed when I learned that stage 2 should go to Belgium and Liege. Belgium is the world’s most interesting beer country. To quote “World Atlas of Beer”:

“Belgium is to beer what France is to wine or the Scottish Highlands is to whisky.”

But the Tour has often been visiting Belgium. We were in Belgium in 2010, 2012, 2015 and now in 2017. It has been confirmed that the Grand depart 2019 will be in Brussels. Antwerpen is biddng to be the city for the Grand Depart in 2020. So there will be many oporutnities to taste Belgian beer.

The Tour has not visited Germany since 1987. When we finally are here again, we could have stayed a bit longer. I had hoped that stage 2 and stage 3 would go through some wine districts in Germany, either Mosel or along tha Rhine river. I will cheat a bit. I am going to write about German wine and a selction of Belgian beer. We will be close to the river Mosel tomorrow, so I will come back to Mosel then.

As a beer country, Belgium is in som way the polar oposite to Germany. Germany had the Reiheigsgebot, and beer could only be made from barley malt (wheat was accepted too), hops, yeast and water. No other ingrediences were allowed. Germany have had and still has many local and regional breweries, but German beers have been variations within a restricted framework. In Belgium, brewers were free to do as they wanted. It has been said that Belgium, they are brewing more than 400 different types of beer. One may argue what is a type of beer, and what are two versions of the same beer. But we will not go into that. But every time I see this figure, I think of the French president Charles de Gaulles, who once said that it is impossible to govern a country with 400 cheeses. Belgium has proven that it is much more difficult to govern a country with 400 beers. In Belgium, there is at tradition for adding spices, fruit etc to the beer, which could not be done under the German Reiheitsgebot.

Through the history, Belgium has been invaded many times. It has been said that a Belgian way of resistance has been to keep and maintain local traditions, in brewing as in many other aspects of life.

Also in Belgium, a large proportion of the beer being drunk is bottom fermented lager. The ubiquitous Stella Artois and Jupiler are boring, industrially produced lager. Jupiler is made in Liege. But it is not these beers that has made Belgium an interesting beer country. So we leave them alone.

On the road to Liege, not long after having crossed the German – Belgian border, we pass realtively close to two berweries that are worth mentioning. The first is Brasserie Grain d’Orge, in Hombourg. I must admit that this is a brewery I do not know. There are other breweries who are also brewing beers labeled Grain d’Orge, so here there can be some confusion. Her is a rating from Beeradvoat of beer from Brasserie Grain d’Orge. Here is another rating from Ratebeer.

The other brewery is Val Dieu in Aubel. Val Dieu means valley of God. Val-Dieu Abbey is a former Cistersienser Monastry. The monsatry was established in 1216. Through the history, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. But the monastry was closed in 2001. On their website, Aubel claims to be the only authentic Abbey beer in Belgium. The beer is brewed within the old monastry, in the tradition after the old Abbey. I take the claim about autentic abbey beer with a grain of salt, or maybe I should choose some salted nuts with the beer.

Brewing is an old tradition in Belgian monstries. It was partly to make an income, but also for the monks. In the old days, the water was often contaminated and could be dangerours to drink. It was better to drink beer than water.

Today, there are many breweries with names after monstries. A well known example is Grimbergen. Monks in the Norbertine monstry a bit north of Brussels, started their brewing in 1128. They were known for their hospitality and their beer. When France invaded Belgium at the end of the 18th century, they closed the monstries.Then the brewing also stopped. Later, the monstry was reestablished, but they did not take up brewing. The monks bought their beer from local breweries.

In 1958 Brouwerij Maes contacted the monastry, and asked if they could market a dark beer they had developed, under the name “Grimbergen”. Until 1978 the beer was brewed in Waterloo. Later, the production was moved to Brouwerij van Alken in Alken. Maes was taken over by Heineken in 2008, and the trade mark “Grimbergen” was sold to Carlsberg. But Heineken got a long lasting license to sell beer in Belgium under the name. Beer sold as Grimbergen outside Belgium is brewed at Kronenbourg in Strasbourg, far from any Belgian monstry. When they call it Abbey Beer, “Biére d’Abbaye”, with the year 1128, is is a “truth” with many modification, maybe an “alternative fact” in today’s terminology. On the label of the Grimbergen beer I from time to time buy in France, which is brewed in Stasbourg, it says: “Brassée dans la tradition de l’Abbaye”, meaning “brewed int the tradition of the Abbay”. This is not really true, either. But if I buy a beer from from one of the large industrial breweries, which you often get in pubs and bars at airports, I prefer Grimbergen over Heineken. This is ofte the choice we have, at least at many French airports.

AffligemBlondAffligem is another “Abbey beer”, not brewed in a monastry. The monastry Affligem was established in 1074, in today’s Belgium. It is documented that they were brewing beer in 1129, and that the brewing continued for a few hundred years. The monastry had a very strategic location at the top of a hill, and it was destroyed many times in several wars. After the French Revolution, the French government wanted to strip the Catholic Church from their power. They closed monstaries and confiscated their property. When looking at the property of the Church and the monastries, it is easy to understand that kings and other rulers had other reasons than religion to fight the Catholic Church and their institution. They were not only stripped for power, but for property as well. The Affligem monastry was closed in 1796. The remains was bought by some monks in 1868, who rebuilt it. The brewing started in 1885, and the rebuilding of the monstry was completed in 1887. The brewing continued to 1940. Then they shared fate with many other Belgian breweries. After the Belgian capitulation, they were forced to give their copper kettles to the German occupanst, who needed the copper for their arms industry.

In 1956 they started to cooperate with the small, local brewery De Smedt. Today Affligem is brewed by De Smedt, in close cooperation with the monks in the monastry. The monastry owns the trade mark Affligem, and all changes, new types of beers etc, must be accepted by the monastry. But the brewery De Smedt is now owned by Heineken, who is doing the marketing and distribution of Affligem.

Leffe_blondThe probably most well known Belgian “Abbey beer” is Leffe. The Abbey (I do not really know the difference between a monstary and an Abbey in this context), was established in 1152, close to Namur in Vallonie (the French speaking part og today’s Belgium). As in so many other Abbeys, they were brewing beer, mainly made from ingrediences growing in the wild close to the Abbey. As so many abbeys, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times through the history. After the French revolution, the abbey was destroyed and abandoned. In 1902, some monks returned to the abbey. In 1952 they took up brewing in close cooperation with the Flemish brewery Lootvoet. This brewery was later bought by Interbrew, which is part of the world’s largest brewer group, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is based in Belgium. Today, all Leffe beers are brewed by Stella Artois in Leuven. But the Leffe abbey still gets royalies from the sale of Leffe beer.

There are some secular breweries established in monastries, brewing in the names of the monastries. Val Dieu is in this category. If you want authentic abbey beer, you should go for the Trappist beers, brewed in Trappist monastries in accordance with the regulations set for Trappist beers. But there are noe Trappist breweries along today’s stage, so we will not open any bottles of Trappist beer today.

Back to Val Dieu. They brew the kind of beers that are well known in Belgium: Blond, Brown (Bruin) and Triple. In addition to these beers, they brew a Grand Cru, a Winter Ale and a Cuvé 800.

If we had crossed the German – Belgian border a bit further south, we could have seen one of the border phenomens I find interesting. There is a Belgian corridor through what is else German territory. I do not remember the details of the history here. It was a Belgian railway line, that Belgium kept as their territory. Belgium once had one of the world’s tightes knit railway networks. But as with so many countries, the wanted to be “modern” after the second world war, and went for roads and cars. The railroad was closed down. Now it is a cycling path. Old railroads make good cycling paths.

We were here some years ago. It was not good cycling conditions this time. But it was mid March, and much more snow than usual this time of the year. We were driving from Maastricht in the Netherlands to Metz in France. The purpose of the trip was to find geocaches in five different countries in one day (the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France). It was with mixed feelings I picked up a rental car with summer tyres at the airport in Brussels, when there was a fair amount of snow in Belgium. We Norwgians are used to drive in winter conditions, but with cars equiped for winter driving.

But back to Germany, the Rhine and German wine. The Rhine river starts in the Swiss Alps, at Oberalppass.

Men jeg vil tilbake til Tyskland og Rhinen, og til tysk vin. Selv om syklistene ikke får med seg vinen, tar vi en avstikker for å smake på noen edle dråper.

The Rhine starts in the Swiss Alps, at Oberalppass. The cycling route EuroVelo 15, the Rhine route, follows the Rhine river from its humble start in the Swiss Alps to where it flows out in the North Sea at Hoeck van Holland, a bit outside of Rotterdam. I cycled most of this route last summer. 1300 km in two weeks, a little more than a family holliday on bicycle. But you can cycle parts of this route. If you like to climb, you can ride up to the top. Or you can do as I did: Take the train to Oberalppass, and start from the top.

Part of the Rhine is the border between Switzerland and Germany, from Bodensee to Basel. From here, it goes straight north with France (Alsace) along the left bank to the east, and Germay (Baden) along the right bank to the east. Here, I turned away from the river, to visit the wine areas in Alsace, a bit further to the west. I returned to the Rhine a bit before I came to Strasbourg. Near Karlsruhe, the border turns 90 degrees west, and from here the Rhine flows through Germany until it reaches the Netherlands. At Mainz and Wiesbaden, the Rhine turns west. North of the Rhine, from Wiesbaden to Rüdesheim, we have Rheingau, which is the best wine region in Germany. (People in Mosel may object to that, we are coming back to Mosel tomorrow). Rheingau is the brown-orange area on the map.

Rheingau is the home of Riesling. In this region, riesling can give wines from light, dry and fresh, to the extreme rich and sweet trockenbeerenauslese. Riesling gives best result in regions where it is not too warm, like in Germany, Austria, France (Alasace), and some places in New Zeeland. A good reisling can be kept for a long time.

When I was in Alsace last summer, the producers had conficence in the 2014 vintage. When he who served med wine at Balthazar Ress in Rheingau was hesitating if he should serve me 2014 or 2015, I told him this. His reply was almost like this: “In Alsace, it is too warm for riesling. For them, a rather cool year like 2014 was good. For us, 2015 was better.” I did not know the neither the vintages nor the wines good enough to argue against this.

At Rüdesheim/Bingen the Rhine turns north. From here to Koblenz we ride through Mittlerhein, the most beautiful part of the Rhine, with the famous Lorelei cliff.

I Koblenz the two rivers the Rhine and Mosel flows together at Deutches Eck, (Germany’s corner).

I am planning a visit to Mosel tomorrow, so we sail past this river today. North of Koblenz, we enter the Ruhr district, the more industrialised part of the Rhine. Here it is industry and commercial ports, often causing the bicycle path to be moved av bit away from the river.

If we continue downstream, we come to Bonn and Cologne, before returning to Düsseldorf.

German wine can be a bit difficult to navigate. German wines are divied into four quality levels: Deutscher Wein, Landwein, Qualitätswein (QbA) and Prädikatswein. The latter category is subdivided according to the ripeness (sugar content) of the grapes:
Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. In the first three categories, there are dry, semi dry and fruity/sweet wines. In the three last categories, there are only sweet wines.

We are in Rheingau. The oldest wine producer is Schloss Johannisberg. There they have been producing wine for 900 years. I have often been buying wine from Schloss Johannisberg, but I did not visit them when cycling in Rheingau last year. There is not time for everything.

I visited two producers in Rheingau last summer. I could have spent a lot more time there. The first was Kloster Eberbach.

They have vineyards many places, sometimes only part of a vineyard, sometimes the entire vineyard. Here Kloster Eberbach has put on display samples of the soil from various vineyards.

If you visit Kloster Eberbach just to taste, without buying anything, you have to pay for each glass. If you buy wine, what you paid for the glasses will be deductet from what you pay for the wine. I think this is a good system. Then you can taste their wine, without feel any pressure to buy anything. I was cycling, and could not cary some bottles of wine in addition to the luggage I already had.

The next producer I visited was Balthazar Ress. I had been to a tasting of their wines in Oslo some years ago. It is always nice to visit them at home. When I entered the tasting room, I told he who pas presenting the wines that I was cycling, and could not buy any wines. No problem, said he, and startet serving wine. When I had made it clear in the beginning that I would not buy anything, I did not feel an pressure to buy anything. Here are the wines I tasted at Balthazar Ress.

If we want to understand German wines, we must know the dristrict, the producer and the quality designation. And for the best wines, we must know the vineyard, almost as in Burgundy. The wine Balthazar Ress served as their standard wine, von Unserem, is labeled Rheigau riesling. This wine can come from any part of Rheingau.

We can user their Rüdesheim Berg Rottland GG as an example. som eksempel. On the top is the name of the producer. Under is the place from where the grapes come, in this case the town Rüdesheim, west in Rheingau. Under is the name of the vineyard vinmarken angitt. Berg tells us that it is a hill, and it is called Rottland. Rottland is a rather steep slope, ca 33% inclination, that gets a lot of sun.

GG means Grosses Gewächs, which says the same as Grosse Lage. It is almost as Grand Cru in France. On the level below we have Erste Lage, almost as Premier Cru if we had been in France.

Under the name of the vinyard is named riesling and that it is dry (trocken).

One of the most exclusive vineyards in Rheingau is Erbach Markobrunn. It is a small vineyard. Only a few producers have a part in this vineyard, among them Kloster Eberbach and Balthazar Ress.

As I have mentioned, I cycled along the Rhine last summer, from where it starts in the Swiss Alps, to where it flows out in the North Seaat Hoek van Holland, west of Rotterdam. If you should cycle a part of it, I will recommend the part from Bingen to Koblenz. Wiesbaden is close to Frankfurt. Get there, spend a few days with good wine in Rheingau, before cycling the Mittlerhein. Mittlerhein from Bingen to Koblenz is a beautiful area, and it is good place for cycling. The trip is ca 70 km. If you do not want so cycle, you can go by boat.

You of course alos go by car or by train. But then you are going too fast.

The World Atlas of Beer

This is the book I usually recommend as a global guide to beer. The second edition was published in 2016. It is an informative and beautyfully illustrated book. I only wish it could have had many more pages.

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Wine Atlas of Germany

You will find the most detailed information on German wine districts and vineyards in "Wine Atlas of Germany". Here you will find detailed information. But there is a problem, and in my opinion a serious problem. The English version is an English 2014-translation of a German book published in 2007.  The English edition is not updatede compared to the German edition. This is what makes the problem serious. German wine classificaton was changed in 2012. This is mentioned in the introduction to the English version. They knew that the book was outdated at the time of publication of the English version. Then, what is the point? If you cannot update, why publish the outdated book? We get nice, detailed maps. The vineyards are still located and named as they were in 2007. But the classification and other information about these vineyards are outdated. The maps of German wine districts in i Hugh John­son and Jancis Robinson “The World Atlas of Wine” are more updated, but less detailed..

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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.

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia