Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Stage 1. Prolog in Düsseldorf

This year’s Tour starts with a 14 km individual time trial. There is pressure on the shoulders of the German time trial specialist Tony Martin. The home fans expects him to win, and that he will start in the yellow jersey tomorrow. The winner of today’s stage will most likely be in yellow until stage three or maybe stage four.

For a grand opening, we must have some music. Robert Schumann is a composer I associate with Düsseldorf. He was not born here, but it was here he ended his career in a tragic way. Robert Schumann was born in 1810, and was one of the leading German composer in the high romantic period. His parents wanted to lead the young Robert away from his obsession with music, and sent him off to Leipzig to study law. If they wanted to avoid that he was distracted by music, Leipzig was not a good choice. Leipzig was an important music city. It was in Leipzib Felix Mendhelson led the famous Gevanthaus-orchestra. It has been said that Robert Schimann never attended a single lecture in law while staying in Leipzig. For me, as a law professor who is very interested in music, it is good to see that talented people like Robert Schumann followed their muse, and not their parent’s advice. Several composers were orginally trained as lawyers. Among them are Peter Tchaikovskij, Igor Stravinskij and Cole Porter. Paul Simon dropped out of Brooklyn Law School before he graduated. We should all be glad for the music they have given the world, and that they did not end up in public administration or in a law firm.

Robert Schumann was an interesting and rather tragic figure. He had a piano teacher in Leipzig, Frederic Wiecks, who promised that Robert would be one of the best piano virtuosos. He put Robert throhg rigerous finger exercises, that eventually injured his fingers which put and end to his ambitions of being a concert pinaist. Robert fell in love with his piano teacher’s then 16 year old daughter, Clara, and she in him. Frederic Wieck was strongly against this relationship, and did what i could to prevent them from seeing each other. But as with so many parent’s attempts to keep young lovers apart, it was all in vain. When Clara, who was a famous concert pianist, reached mauturity, she would to the court to get the right to marry Robert, despite not having the consent from her father. It was not easy for a woman to marry without her father’s consent in these days. But as it so often happens: Her father gave in.

In 1850, Robert Shumann was appointed music director in Düsseldorf. When he arrived in Düsseldorf, he got awed by the Rhine scenery, and composed his symphony No 3, the Rein symphony, as a tribute to this landscape.

Robert Schumann was not up to his job as music director. He was a bad conductor, and had many conflicts with the musicians in the orchestra. His mental illness got worse. 27. February 1854, he tried to commit suicide. He threw his wedding ring into the Rhine from the Rhine Bridge (not the Rhine Bridge of today, and jumped after. He was saved by a boat man. He was hospitalised in a mental hosppital in Endenich, which is now a quarter in Bonn. He died there in 1956. It is said that it was his syphilis that eventually killed him.

When I was in Düsseldorf last summer, Tour de France had already started to put a mark on the city.

But we must have something to drink. When I was in Düsseldorf, I thought it would be nice to sit here, ringside with a cold beer, and watch the prolog.

But after a closer look at the maps, I realised that the stage would go in the street behind, and not down here.

We are too north to search for lokal wine. So we have to find some local beer. Germany is one of the countries in the world with the largest production of beer. But the beer production is not so dominated by the international and industrial beer giants, as many other countries. In Germany, there has alwas been and still are many local and regional breweries.

There are basically two main types of beer: Top fermented and bottom fermented. Bottome fermeting is the traditional brewing method. The fermenting takes place at almost room temperature. The yeast stays on top. The result is an aromatic beer, usually called ale. If it gets too warm, one cannot brew and mauture beer. In Bavaria, they solved this bye mauturing and storing the beer in caves in the Alps, where the temperature was low. They discovered that the beer was different. The yeast sunk to the bottom. The lower temperature produced a different kind of beer. As it had been stored, it was called lager, the German word for storag. A bottom fermented beer is more easy to control in an industralised brewing process. It should come as no surprise that this became the dominating type of beer.

In Germany they have had the “Beer Purity Law”, or Reinheitsgebot in German, which said that beer could only be made from malt, hops, yeast and water. There are many types of malt, hops and yeast, and the quality of the water varies, giving room for many variations of beer. It was introduced in Bavaria in 1516, and was adopted for the entire Germany in 1971. Bavaria set as a precondition for being part of the united Germany, that this law should be enacted. There was exepction, but I will not go into details. It was abolished in 1989, when EU concluded that is was an obstacle to free trade. But still most German breweries stick to the rules in this law. It has limited the creativity of the brewers, compared to in particular Belgium. Variations of lager are the dominating types of beer brewed i Germany.

A speciality in Düsseldorf is Altbier, meaning old beer. When bottom fermented beer became more common, there was a kind of resistance in this north-western corner of Germany, aganst the perssure from bottom fermented beer, from the south (Bavaria) and the east (Bohemia). They kept on brewing top fermented beer. But it was some kind of a corss fertilization. They kept on bresing top fermented beer. But it was brewed and matured at temperatures slightly lower than what was usual for top fermented beer, but not as low as for bottom fermented beer. Altbier is usually a rather dark, copper coloured beer. It has usually a bit fresher taste than most top fermented beers. The brewery Schumacher in Düsseldorf was the first to call their beer Altbier, when they started in 1833.

If we travel i bit further south, to Cologne, we enter the main area for the beer Kölsch. Kölsch is a top fermented beer, made from pilsner malt. It is almost as a top fermented pils, but this turns out wrong, as pilner is the archetypic bottom fermented beer. It can in many ways resemble Belgian Blond. But there are often some spices in Belgian Blond, which was not allowed under the German Reinheitsgebot. It is still brewed according to the tradition.

We have not arrived in France yet. But I include this now, anyway. France has a rich tradition for graphic novels. There is a huge variety, from comics, history, journalism and novels in this format.

There are manye books in this genre, often misleadingly labeled comic books in English (some are comic, some are not). There are a number of such books on cycling and on wine. I will come back to a few in the three weeks to come. But I will start we these two, published this year. One is historic, about champions of Tour de France. There has been published many graphic books on Tour de France, some comic and some more on history. The other one is Velomaniacs, a comic book on the life in a small, French cycling club, very far from World Tour level.

Order from Amazon FR:

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.

Order from

The Oxford Companion to Beer

0195367138This is a reference work on beer, written in an encyclopedic style. Despite the name "The Oxford Companion ...", is it a US book, having a slight US bias. Having said that, it is a very good book of refernce.

It is available in a hardcover and a Kindle edition. For a book like this, I would go for the paper version.

Buy the hardcover edition from  Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Buy the Kindle edition from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia