Follow the Tour de France route with a wine-tasting journey
Europe’s most famous and challenging professional bicycle race, the Tour de France, kicked off this week.
Until July 28, the Tour involves individual daily races called “stages” that occur over challenging, diverse routes in regions throughout France. Along the way, racers pedal through some of France’s top wine-growing appellations.
Enjoying a wine from the region for each stage provides a fun way to track both the daily race and the overall race standings. Today’s stage on July 10, for example, covers 109 arduous miles through hilly terrain between Saint-Dié-des-Vosges and Colmar in Alsace in northeastern France.
Keeping with the theme, try the 2017 Domaine Schoffit, Gewürztraminer, Harth Lieu-Dit “Cuvée Caroline,” Alsace, France (Luxury 77890; $24.99), a delicious white from dedicated father and son Alsace winegrowers, Bernard and Alexandre Schoffit. The Schoffits cultivate their 50-year-old Gewürztraminer vines with organic and biodynamic practices. Combined with the sunny days and cool nights around Colmar, their meticulous work produces high-quality, hand-picked fruit balancing marvelous ripeness with zesty freshness.
The grapes ferment in stainless steel to preserve intense aromas of pineapples and roses. On the palate, rich, ripe pineapple, peach and honey flavors balance with zesty acidity and mouthwatering freshness. The wine finishes off dry but well-balanced. Highly Recommended.
The next stage cuts westward through the Vosges Mountains and then on July 12, the Tour de France descends from the Jura Mountains with an all-out sprint toward Chalon-sur-Saône. This city serves as the commercial center of Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise winegrowing region.
Winegrower Denis Valdenaire’s 2016 Domaine Chofflet-Valdeniare, Givry, France (Luxury 74810; $24.99) epitomizes the outstanding quality and value available in reds from dedicated Côte Chalonnaise growers. His pinot noir vines grow in the hills above the agrarian village of Givry.
Valdenaire applies sanitary treatments sparingly to the vines and only when necessary to preserve the crop. He ferments the fruit naturally and then limits the new oak barrels in aging the wine.
The wine offers enchanting black cherry and brown spice aromas with a touch of earthiness. On the palate, the wine’s medium fruit concentration balances nicely with refreshing acidity and elegant tannins. Highly Recommended.
On July 13, Tour de France Stage 8 covers 149 miles beginning in the charming riverside town of Mâcon in southern Burgundy. The town gives its name to the surrounding wine-growing region where producers increasingly offer excellent quality white wines at attractive prices.
Try, for instance, Dominique Lafon’s delicious 2017 Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon-Villages, France (Luxury 8100; $23.99), a Chardonnay-based wine from one of Burgundy’s most accomplished growers. Lafon’s organic approach aims for natural ripeness delivering alcohol by volume between 12.5 and 13%. He then ferments the juice with native yeasts.
The wine ages in large wooden foudre vats and demi-muid barrels, none of which are new oak.
The wine’s aromas unfold lovely, ripe fruit and light earthy notes. Ripe apple and citrus flavors balance with ample concentration, crisp acidity and uplifting freshness through the dry finish. Highly Recommended.
Stage 10 on July 15 brings a relatively flat, 130-mile journey into Southwest France toward the town of Albi, not far from Toulouse, France’s “Pink City.” The surrounding region offers France’s most diverse viticulture with more than 130 grape varieties.
Along the way, the riders pass through the medieval city of Rodez which lies near the Marcillac appellation.
A delightful red wine, the 2015 Domaine du Cros Marcillac “Cuvée Lo Sang del Païs,” France (Luxury 81034; $14.99 — available at the Waterworks Luxury and online), offers a good introduction. It comes from fer servadou grapes, a variety unique to the region. The appealing dark ruby color unfolds red currant, raspberry and bell pepper aromas. Juicy, dark-fruit and light bell pepper flavors balance with refreshing acidity and firm, smooth tannins. Recommended.
On July 19, the stage engages the riders in time trials near Pau, a town close to France’s border with Spain. The surrounding vineyards of Jurançon produce both rich, sweet dessert wines and crisp, dry whites. Then the race shifts eastward.
After a couple of mountainous stages and a flat stage, Stage 17 on July 24 departs from near Pont du Gard, the awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct, and then cuts northeast on a hilly 125-mile trek through famous southern Rhône vineyards. Try the 2015 Domaine de l’Amandine, Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Cuvée Bel Air,” France (Luxury 76953; $17.99).
This tasty wine comes from Jean-Pierre Verdeau, his daughter Sabine and his son-in-law, Alex Suter. It blends primarily syrah and grenache from 50-year-old vines and offers ripe black fruit and spice aromas. Barrel aging adds understated smoky notes. It finishes fresh and fruity. Recommended.
After additional mountain stages, the Tour de France’s final Stage 20 finishes with a sprint into Paris along the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées with its iconic Arc de Triomphe. Nothing but sparkling wine will do to celebrate.
Try the N.V. Domaine Rolet Père et Fils , Crémant du Jura Brut, France (Luxury 76999; $23.99), a delicious bottle of bubbly that recalls an earlier difficult stage in the Jura Mountains. The wine comes primarily chardonnay and offers frothy bubbles with lovely aromas of white flowers, pears and light yeasty notes. Crisp flavors of quince and citrus follow balanced by pleasant creaminess and a fruity, yet dry, lingering finish. Recommended.