Category Archives: Beer

Wines and other drinks of Tour de France 2018. Stage 9: Arras Citadelle — Roubaix

Another win for Dylan Groenewegen. Dan Martin lost time after the crash. Fernando Gaviria and André Greipel who finished second and third, were relegated, and I did not really get why it happened.

Stage 9 is cobbles, with many cobbled stretches that should be known from Paris Roubaix. But as they change the course a bit from year to year, it may not be the stretches that they were riding this year. The finish is not on the famous velodrome in Roubaix, but just outside of it.

Cobbled stages are not for the light climbers. Tour de France has classified it as “hilly”, which in reality it is not. There is not a single classicied climb. But hilly is probably the closest they have among the categories they use. It was on a cobbled stretch Chris Froome crashed in 2010, causing him to abandon the race. I hope this will not happen for any riders. It should not be injuries that should decide the race, but we knows it sometimes happens.

The stage will probably not be a stage for the typical sprinters either. I guess it will be a stage for some of the classics riders, who may as well be good sprinters, or the strong spirnters. Peter Sagan won Paris Roubaix this year, and he can of course win on this trerrain again. Greg van Avermaet is still a candidate. He has won Paris-Roubaix before. And it could as well be the Norwegians Alexander Kristoff or Edvald Boasson Hagen. When comparing with Paris — Roubaix, we have to bear in mind that this classic is around 250 km long, today’s stage is 156,5 km, almost 100 km shorter than Paris — Roubaix. Edvald Boasson Hagen has often faded near the end of the long classics, maybe this shorter stage will suit him better. As a Norwegian, I can at least hope for that. I am also thinking of John Debenkolb as a favourite for this stage.

We are in the department Nord pas de Calais, in the region now named Haut de Francewhich is former Nord and Picardie. This is French Flanders, and an area with a rich beer culture. A little more than five years ago, on July  18 2013, the French Senate decided to give beer in this area status as  “patrimoine culturel, gastronomique et paysager protégé de la France”. I do not know what the practical significance of such a staus will be — if any.

100 years ago, there were around 2.000 breweries in the area. The last time I checked, it was 41.

For 100 år siden var det omtrent 2.000 bryggerier i området. I dag er det 41.  The oraganisaion  L’Echappée Bière it organising beer and gastronomy tours in Northern France and Belgium.

We are close to, but not over the Belgian border. I choose to include a “border beer”, that we find a bit east of today’s stage. Cuvee_des_Jonquilles Brasserie su Baron is located in the small town  Gussignies, at the Belgian border. The brewery is only 200 meters from the border. The brewery is connected to a restaurant with the same name. It is their, La Cuvée des Jonquilles that has gotten many prizes ans a lot of attention, and the authors of  1001 Beers You Must Try before You Die think you should try before you die.

A few kilometres east of where the riders enter the first cobble stretch, we find the tow Jenlain, WIMG_1771_DxO where we find the brewery Brasserie-Duyck. has been given the honour of reviving Bière de Garde. Bière de Garde, beer to store, was traditionally brewed at farms in the winter and spring, to be stored for the summer. Beer was brewes for imediate consumption. But in the summer, it was too warm for brewing. That is why they brewed a beer that could be stored until it again for season for brewing. It is the same as with the Belgian Saisson.

Brasserie-Duyck sells their beer under the label Jenlain. It was sold in champagne bottles from around 1950. In 1968, they started to sell it as Jenlain Ambrée. At the time french breweries were about to give up traditional brewing and switch to bottom fermented beer, Jenlain Ambré became a cult beer among students in Lille, and sale started to increase. It is a classic bière de Garde, and among the  1001 Beers You Must Try before You Die. The authors mean that you should also try Jenlain Blonde, som a ighter version of Bière de Garde. They also recommend their Christmas beer, but we are a bit out of seaseon for this on.

Their prestige beer is Jenlain Or [gold], also a blonde. We can also include their Éclats d’Ambrée, a vintage beer.

Jenlain is a beer with good distribution, at least in France. It can be found in supermarkets all over France.

A little east of the intermediary sprint, is the small town Hordain, and in this town we find Brasserie la Choulette. Their La bière des Sans Culottes er is another Bière de Garde among the 1001 Beers You Must Try before You Die. They also have a fruitbeer, and the authors of this book think we must try their Framboise (raspberry) before we die. This is a beer from La Choulette that I have not tried.

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Tour de France 2018

 

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Wines and other drinks of Tour de France 2018. Stage 8: Dreux — Amiens Métropole

It is impossible to predict which sprinter will have the day, and win in the end. It was nor surprise that Dyelan Groenewegen should win, or that Peter Sagen once again was up there, collecting points.

Stage 8 is another flat stage. It may be wind at the end, but it will probably be a bunch sprint, the last opportunity for the sprinters for some time. It is 14th of July, the Bastille day, the day on which all french cyclists are dreming of winning a stage in Tour de France. Maybe it can be Arnaud Demare today?

As I mentioned yesterday, they have circumvented Calvados this year. But we do a little detour to Calvados. The production areas are west of today’s stage.

The apple brandy cavados is made by distiling cider. Normandy they of course produce cider that is not distilled to calvados, but we will not drink more cider. We can also add that they produce apple brandy many places. But only apple brandy produced in Calvados, from apples grown in Calvados in accordance with the rules and regulations for calvados can be labeled “calvados”. The rest is just apple brandy

Apples are not just apples. They grow more than 200 varieties in Normandy, and it is not unusual that a producer in Calvaodos use more than 100 specified varieties of apples in their production. Some can be sweet, some can be bitter and some can be sour, and everything in between.

There are three AOP classified areas in Calvados. AOP calvados is the largest, and includes the subappelations. The two others are   AOP calvados Pays d’Auge,  and AOP calvados Domfrontais that we visited yesterday..

Pays d’Auge is regarded as the best appelataion. In AOP calvados Pays d’Auge the criterias are stricter than for AOP Calvados. It must be double distillation in  alembic pot stills, while they in AOC calvados can have a more industrialised prodution in continuous coloumns.

In Domfrontais there is, as mentioned yesterday, a long tradition for pear growing. AOP calvados Domfrontais shall contain at least 30% pear, and it must be stored at least three years in oak barrels. It makes a fruity calvados.

Calvados must be stored at least two years in oak barrels before it can be bottled and sold as calvados. But often it is stored much longer. Much calvados is bleded from several vintages. If an age is given at the label, it must be the age of the youngest calvados in the blend. There are other designations used to indicate age. These are

Calvados skal lagres i minst to år på eikefat før den tappes og selges. Men ofte lagres den mye lenger. Mye calvados er blend fra flere årganger og sikkert flere produsenter. Hvis det angis alder skal det være alderen på den yngste calvadosen som angis. Man kan også bruke andre betegnelser som refererer til alder. Dette er:

  • Fine”, “Trois étoiles ***”, “Trois pommes”— at least tow years old.
  • Vieux”, “Réserve”— at least three years old.
  • V.O.” “VO”, “Vieille Réserve”, “V.S.O.P.” “VSOP”— at least four years old.
  • Extra”, “X.O.” “XO”, “Napoléon”, “Hors d’Age” “Age Inconnu”— at least six years old, but often much older.

The fruit is more prominent in younger calvados, while the older taste more like old brandy.

We can get singel vintage singel calvados, made in the best years.

I was in Amiens earlier this summer, when I was travelling by train and bicycle in Europe. I asked for local beer, but none of the places I visited had anything. They were mainly serving belgian beer such as Leffe, and boring beer such as Heineken. Leffe is a good beer, but local beers are more interesting. At my hotel, they had a souvenir pack of three bottles of beer from the local brewery Charles & Vianney. But they did not have it in the bar. When cycling, I do not want to add a few bottles of beer (or wine) to my luggage. So I did not get a chance to taste it.

Tour de France 2018

 

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Wines and other drinks of Tour de France 2018. Stage 6: Brest — Mûr de Bretagne Guerlédan

I held Greg van Avermaet, and not Peter Sagan as favourite on yesterday’s stage. But we never know with Peter Sagan. Antoher impressive win from him.

Stage 6 is another hilly stage. I have Greg van Avermaet and Vincenzo Nibali as my favourites. But as I just wrote: We never know with Peter Sagan. He may do it again.

I have chosen to include the profile for this stage as well.

When in this region, we will stick to celtic drinks, and it is mainly beer this time. They are brewing a lot of interesting beer in Brittany. They brew interesting beer many other places as well. If I should be honest, the micro breweries often make the same kind of beer, and there is not very much diffrence from one IPA to another. Being small does not always mean being good or the best. It is not without reason that some “micro breweries” have grown out of this category.

My main source for information on breton beer is the book  Deux siècles de bières en Bretagne, in addition to information I have found on the net, as well as tasting a number of breton beers..

The word bière seems to have had a kind of a detour into the French language. According to Larousse Dictionnaire Étymologique it comes from the Dutch bier, a word many of us know from the German word  Bier. When we find the same word in English Oxford Dictionary is ofte beter when it comes to etymology. According to Oxford Dictionary, the wod came to English from  West Germanic, meaning German and Dutch.  But the German word comes from the latin word biber, meaning a drink. This is again derived fro mthe latin word bibere, meaning to drink. The latin word has taken a detour via germanic languages, into th e mainly latin based French.

The word substituted the old word la cervoise, which was a kind of beer made without hops. I mention all this because many in Brittany seem to prefer the word  cervoise, which is basically the same word as the Breton korev and the  Welsh cwrw. Many will see that it is the same word as the Spanish cerveza and the Portugeese cerveja. We can add that it is cervesa in Catalan and Occitan.

In these days we are hearing a lot about problems with CO2, be it too much in the atmosphere causing global warming, or lack of CO2 for cleaning of water, brewing, etc. I will make som comments about brewing.

During the fermentation, sugar or starch produces alcohol and CO2. If kept under pressure, the CO2 will dissolve in the liquid, creating carbonic acid. In traditional brewing in casks, the CO2 creates the bubbles in our beer. In industrial brewing, CO2 is added in tanks, under pressure. The brewing industry have problems caused by lack of CO2. In craft brewing, the fermentaion, or rather the second fermentation is done in casks, bottles or cans, producing its own CO2, Buy crafts beer, or artisan biere as they say in French, and shortage of CO2 supply should not be a problem.

Back to Brittany and beer. We really do not know for how long time they have been brewing beer in Brittany. They have done so for some hundred years, but we do not know how many. At the beginning of the 19th centrury, there were many breweries. But as happened so many places, the brewing was industrialised and the beer standardised by the end of the century. At the end of the 20th century, traditional brewing had its rennaisance. In Brittany, it grew alongside breton nationalism and revitalisation of breton culture in general. The brewers were helped by the enthusiasm for breton traditions and breton culture, even when they had not learned their craft properly.

Brasserie Lancelot had their first beer ready July 12 1989. The first time I got served beer from  Lancelot was at a breton restaurant (in Aigues Mortes in Languedoc-Roussillon, a far distance form Brittany) I thought that Lancelot was a very good name for a product with celtic refernces. But the brewery was started by Bernard Lancelot. He had been working in the atomic industry, but wanted to do something else. He stared with bees, but the bees were destroyed by a parasite. He then turned to brewing.

The beer Lancelot is a golden beer. It is a top fermented unfiltered beer, with second fermentation in the bottle. The producer compares it with BelgianTrappist-beer. I do not know what the Trappist-beweris think of this comparision.Trappist is not a style or a type of beer. It only means that the beer has been brewed within a Trappist monastery according to the rather strict rules for Trappist beer. There are many types of Trappist beer, and not all of them are Belgian. It makes such comparisions a bit dubious.

During a hunt, the legendary breton king  Conan Mériadec saw an ermine beside a mud pond. Rather than to have its white fur dirty, the ermine walked in the direction of the hunters. This was the origin of the breton saying of rather die than to get dirty., and to the beer Blanche Hermine from Lancelot. Ermine is an animal that is emblematic of Brittany. The beer is a white wheat beer, rather low in alchol. A refreshing beer on a warm summer day.

Bonnets Rouges (the red hoods) is a beer made with elderberries, which give the beer its red colour and fruity taste. In 1675 the bretons revolted against the French king, who introduced new taxes without the consent of the breton parliament.  The rebels, insurgents or whatever you prefer to call them, used the red hood as a symbol of freedom. This beer is named after them.

The beer TeLenn Du, marks the celtic. It has a breton name, meaning black harp. The beer is made with buckwheat. It is brown, light and a bit sweet.

La Brasserie Artisanale Touken is a small brewery tat opened May 12 2007, that makes the beer  under the name Philomenn.

Philomenn is also inspired by Trappist beer. Aong other beers, they brew well known types as  Blonde and  Stout. I will also include  Philomenn Tourbée. Tourbée means peat. It has a smokey taste, from the drying of the malt. It reminded me a bit of Islay malt whisky, such as Laphroig, Talisker and Ardbeg.

Britt Brasserie de Bretagne is another well known breton brewery. It is one of the breton brweries that has a rather good distribution outside of Brittany.

Until the first time I visited Brittany, I had always been thinking of the Puffin as a typical Norwegian and Icelandic bird. But it can (or at least could) be found in large number in Brittany, and is a symbol of the region.

In Brittany, they do as their celtic brothers further to the west. They make whisky. There are three whisky distilleries in Bittany. Des Menhirs, Glann Ar Mor and Warenham. If French whisky is unknown to you, it was for me as well, until I started to search for breton drinks.

I bought a bottle of Eddu Silver from Des Menhirs at the breton shop Chemins de Bretagne in Paris. Unfortunately this shop no longer exists. According to the lady in the shop, this should be the reference for breton whisky. It is made from buckwheat, which is called eddu in breton, if I have got it right.

When I first tasted it, I was not too excited. Over the years I have tasted a number of whiskies, mainly scottish malt whisky, some irish whiskey, and some others, whisky made from barley. This breton whisky was fruity with no smokyness. Eddu tasted very different from scottish malt whisky.

I decided that I had to give Eddu a second chance. When we taste something with certain expectations, for instance of what a whisky should taste like, and these expectations are not met, we tend to get disappointed. The second time, when I tasted Eddu without these expectations, it was an interesting drink. But I still prefer a scottish malt if I want a glass of whisky.

When we are in Brittany and mention the revival of breton culture, we have to mention the musician Alan Stivell. Here he is performing the song Tri Martolod at Festival des Vieilles Charrues in the year 2000. Tri Martolod means three sailors. It is an old breton song, made popular by Alan Stivell. Three sailors are taken by the wind, ending up in New Foundland. There they meet a girl, who they, or at least one of them, thought they/he had met before. They had met at the market in Nantes, and he had promised her a ring. No, I do not understand the breton lyrics, but I have read a French translation.

I have not been in Brittany for some years. It is a region I would love to revisit.

Wines and some other drinks of Tour de France 2018: Not the best wine stages

Today Tour de France 2018 was presented, and we can forget the rumours. I am always frustrated by the lack of details presented. We get an overview, but not more detailed maps of the stages. They will probably be available sometime in June 2018. I do not understand why they hold this information back.

It will be an exiting Tour, with many exciting stages. But I leave it to the various cycling magazines to discuss the Tour from a cycling perspective. I am looking for wine and other drinks, and maybe some interesting food along the stages.

The Tour start in Vendée, where the river Loire flows into the ocean. We are at the outer part of Loire. We may have to go a bit deeper into Loire to find wine, but we will find some.

From there, the Tour heads north-west to Brittany. There we have to go for beer an cider, as they do not produce wine there. Further north, towards Roubaix. It is the flemish part of France. It is a part of France with brewing tradition, but not wine making tradition.

In the Alps it will be hard do find wine, as always. One stage will end and one start in the Rhône valley, but not in the part of Rhône where we find the more interesting Rhône wines. Maybe we can find some wine in Ardeche. The finish in Mende will be exiting. But I have yet to find interesting wine form the Lozere departement.

We may find some intersting wines along the stages to and from Carcassonne, but we will need more detalis to find out. In the Pyrenees, there are no wines to be found. But we may fine some along the stage ending in Pau.

The Tour will end in Paris, and then we will have champagne, as usual.

Tour de France 2018

 

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
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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

 

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2017: Introduction

This year’s Tour starts in Düsseldorf in Germany. The Tour visits Germany for the first time since 1987.

When doping was riding cycling, also in Germany, Germany said no. German TV stopped broadcasting Tour de France. But now, German riders like André Greipel, John Degenkolb, Tony Martin and Marcel Kittel, have put their mark on Tour de France and other big cycling sport events.

The Tour starts with a prolog in Düsseldorf. We are north of the “wine border”, even though the climate change may move it further north. Even in my country, Norway, there is some wine production. But in Düsseldorf, we have to start with a beer.

I was disappointed when I saw the route from Düsseldorf. I had hoped for stages in Mosel and the wine districts along the Rhine. But the riders are going to Liege in Belgium. There is not much wine along this route. From here, there is a stage mainly in Luxembourg, before the Tour enter France.

After the announcement of Düsseldorf as the city for the grand depart, I had been looking forward to German wines. Belgium it the worlds most interesting beer country, but the Tour has been in Belgium many times, and it is already confirmed that the grand depart will be in Brussels in 2019. But I will not be stopped by that. We will have some Belgian beer, and German wine for stage 2. The river Mosel is for some part the border between Germany and Luxembourg. While the riders are in Luxembourg, we will float downstrem, into Germany during stage 3.

Jeg var skuffet da jeg så ruten videre fra Düsseldorf. Jeg hadde håpet at vi nå skulle kunne ta for oss tysk vin. Men rytterne skal rett fre Düsseldorf til Liege i Belgia, og det er ikke mye vin langs den etappen. Herfra skal rytterne gjennom Luxembourg, før vi kommer inn i Frankrike.

From a wine perspective, the stages 6 and 7 are the more interesting. Stage 6 take us into the little known, but very interesting Aube district in Champagne, and stage 7 will take us into Nuit-Saint-Georges and the heart of Burgundy. Stage 10 will take us to Bergerac, one of many wine districts that is less known as it deserves. We will go for some stronger drinks to stage 11, through Armagnac. Stage 16 will take us to Hermitage in the Rhône valley. As usual, it will be difficult to find wine when the riders are in the mountains. And true to the tradition, it will be champagne for the final in Paris.

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.

 

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.

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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.

Tour de France 2017

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 3: Granville — Angers

I was not a surprise that Peter Sagan won yesterday’s stage. Now he will probably defend the yellow jersey as long as he can. If he escapes accident, no one will take more then 14 seconds on him on today’s stage.

TdF2016_03

We could have chosen some more cidre and calvados, and we could probably have found some more beers.. But we are approaching the Loire valley, and finally we can start to look for some interesting wines.

I have to admit that I do not know the wines from the Loire Valley as good as I should. When I am thinking of Loire Wines, it tende to be either Muscadet,  from about where it flows out in the ocean, an excellent wine for sea food in the summer. Or Muscadet and Puilly Fumé from further up the valley. But between these, there are many excellent wines.

We come into the Loire Valley in the district Anjou. I am first thinking of the rosé Cabernet d’Anjou, made from Cabernet Franc. It was popular when I was young. But a half dry rosé, taht is not my favourite today. When I retasted this some years ago, it was clear that it was no longer among my favourites. During the summer, I often drink rosé when I in cooler seasons would have been drinking  red wine. But it shall by dry.

It is always a good idea to start with som sparkling wine. Crémant is sparkling wines from France made with traditional method, with second fermenting in the bottle,  outside Champagen.

Crémant de Loire is usualley made from the grape Chenin Blanc, a grape that is at its best in Loire.

A little to the south-west of the arrival town Angers we find the area Savnnières. It is facing south, on the right bank of the Loire river. This is regarded as the best area for white wines in this part of Loire. Inside this area, we find the two AOP-classified areas Roch-ax-Moines and Coulée-de-Serrat, which are regarded as the best areas in Savenniéres. The wines are made from Chenin blanc. They make dery, semi-dry and sweet wines.  The semi-dry may have to be stored or decades before they are at theri best. The production is small..

As a dessert, we can move a bit further south, to  Coteaux-du-Layon, where we can find some excellent sweet dessert wines. The one held in highest esteem is from Quarts-de-Chaume. These are also wines produced from Chenin Blanc. The wines that are mentioned, proves what Chanin Blanc can offer in this area.

The well known English wine magazine Decanter had recently selected the world’s best wines.   Andre Davy, Domaine de la Roche Moreau, Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume, were awarded a platinum medal, as Best Sweet Loire over £15.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia

 

Giro d'Italia

 

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 2: Saint-Lô — Cherbourg-en-Cotentin

We are still in Normandy, in the district Manche. What many of us call The English channel, is La Manche in France. It is unthinkabe that the French should call sea outside the French coast as something like “The English …”.

Mark Cavendish is back on track, winning the first stage and starting in yellow today. But I do not think he will keep it after today’s stage. It is an uphill finish. Not a reali climb, but still too hard for the typical sprinters. And there may be some time differences after this stage.

TdF2016_02

Vi can start with a beer today too. Brasserie Eldorado is in Cherbourg. It seems to be a brew pub, but I do not have much information on this brewery or their beers.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 2: Saint-Lô — Cherbourg-en-Cotentin

Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 1: Mont-Saint-Michel / Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont

Here we go again. It is time for Tour de France. The first stage is in Normandie, starting at the spectacular Mont Saint Michel and ending in Utah Beach.

TdF2016_01

Mont Saint Michel is at the border between Brittany and Normandy. It is in Normandy, but the river Couesnon the flows out in the ocean next to Mont Saint Michel is the border between these two regions.

Continue reading Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 1: Mont-Saint-Michel / Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont