Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Virtual Tour de France

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jul 2, 2011.

Watching stage one today, I saw an ad for a "virtual" TdF.  Wasn't paying a lot of attention but I guess it's one of those things where you put your bike up on rollers and watch video or something. Kind of silly when the weather is as good as it has been here in the Bay Area.

But the bigger reason my mind wandered was I remembered someone who drank a virtual Vuelta (the stage race of Spain).  France! Three weeks!  This is a golden opportunity.

So we missed Day One, but tomorrow it continues in the the Vendee with a time trial. The Vendee just got AOC status this year.  Hmm, maybe not so promising.  Anyone know anything about the wines?  I haven't even heard of these grapes, unless that Chenin is the same Chenin as Chenin Blanc.  In France, you can't always be sure.  (But Groulleau Gris? Rkatseteli might have to wait--there's something else I haven't tried!) Apparently, there are pre-phylloxera vines. The area is where Charolais cattle were first bred. So shouldn't there be some red wine there?

After that, the race heads north across the mouth of the Loire for Stage 3.  It misses Nantes, the home of Muscadet sur Lies, but I think that's going to have to be the wine, since it doesn't follow the river or go near other regions, and Muscadet sur Lies is known for its compatibility with seafood, which is what that coastal area is for.  Since it ends in Redon, in Brittany, which is known for chestnuts and not grapes, options are pretty slim.  (Well, if you have lots of kinds of Muscadet, you have options within that range, but still...)

On July 5, another stage in Brittany.  They make a little of their own muscadet, but they say Nantes is associated with Brittany... they are not even hyping their wine, so take what you can from that.

July 6th, and we're up to stage 5 and now we're in Northern Brittany.  Okay, you could be tiring of Muscadet.  But bad news:  July 7th and Stage 6?  Brittany again.  Aha! I've got it:  Calvados.  "Cideries and Distilleries" reads the tab on the "turisme" website of Lisieux.

Or you can enjoy your Italian wine during the Snooth virtual tasting on July 6.  Let me know what ideas you have for a virtual TdF of wine--this year is a challenging one to start this idea.  I'll be back later in the week and throughout the Tour to update with more stages.


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Reply by napagirl68, Jul 5, 2011.

Sounds great! 

I am only a Old world newbie here (LOL), but I thought Vouvray from the Loire was the Chenin blanc grape.  I only know this cause I had a great Vouvray sparkler and my sommelier friend, who served it to me, informed me about it... I loved it, but can't find it anymore:-(

Reply by napagirl68, Jul 5, 2011.

arrggh,...image upload SUCKS.  It was a 2001 Huet Vouvray Petillant ... tried to attach image.. no luck.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 5, 2011.

Wasn't Vellovino doing a TdeF wine bike blog?

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 5, 2011.

Good question, SH.  I'll contact VV and find out.  The concept has been around here before.

NG: I'm no expert on the Loire, but I am a fan--might be my favorite region for white wines.  Chenin in some places, SB in others, but the area where the tour is starting out is on the Atlantic Coast--the Chenin and SB are farther upstream, ditto the reds.  They crossed at the mouth of the Loire and did not follow the river at all.

Nothing wrong with Muscadet sur Lies, which we thoroughly enjoyed on Sat. night.  It can be a huge value, some of them worthy of a few years of aging, and excellent examples at less than $10 USD.  The one we had was from 2005 and was rich without being heavy, creamy but fresh.  It's esp good with seafood, they say--I haven't tried it with anything else. 

But Brittany isn't really the Loire, and you can only do wine tourism with the same wine for so long.  Stage 7on Friday the 8th--LeMans to Chateroux--recrosses the Loire much farther up.  It'll take the riders very near, if not through, Touraine.  That should be cause for celebration for NG--because that means Cab Franc.  I guess my Friday roast chicken will have to skip the pinot. 

Stage 8 on Sat'day crosses the Cher, where the grapes were wiped out by phylloxera and never really replanted.  This is not the best year for wine lovers and the Tour! The stage ends at the headwaters of the Dordogne, the very one that Bordeaux is on... but this is way up in the mountains, so not prime grape territory.  Skiing is the thing. 

On the other hand, this is the area of Limousin, home of the oak most favored for barrels.  So my solution is to drink something aged in French Oak--that opens up the choices quite a bit.

Looking ahead, I can see the best wine of the Tour on the horizon.  But it's going to outrage our hosts! More posts on this later in the week.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Jul 7, 2011.

Yep, that was me that did the Vuelta last year.  I barely survived the three weeks!

I modified my approach this year and am doing a comparison of WA state wines to regions where the major UCI bike races are happening.  I do one comparison each week.

For the first week of le Tour I selected a WA Cab Franc to compare to a Loire Valley Cab Franc.  The difference was staggering.  You can read about it on my Lucha Vino blog - it is a combination of Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestiling), bike racing and wine tasting (drinking!).

Tracing the route for this year it heads from the Loire due South through central France.  Sort of close to Bordeaux (ok, stretching a bit) so I am selecting Bordeax style blend from WA to compare against a true Boredeax for the next match.

I am also considering a Bastille day match up that would feature a varietal or blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region (generally close to the July 14th stage in the Pyrenees).

Looking forward to reading about your Tour de France travels!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 8, 2011.

VV: Hey, I liked that post and the whole format.  Bell pepper is a trait of cab franc, either a feature or a drawback depending on how much and whether you enjoy/tolerate it. 

 In general, the going is kind of tough for this year's TdF.  The race crosses the Loire two times, but doesn't follow it.  Then, it heads for the Massif but again crosses the Dordogne rather far from Bordeaux.  The Cher used to be wine country, but not anymore--and Chateaumeillant is still a VDQS area, but I can't find anyone selling any wine from there. The riders have complained that the race is more intense and dangerous at the beginning than it has been in the past.  But, hey, they get paid.  I need an excuse for good wine, so I wish they'd listen to me! I get that we have to spend some time in the mountains, but could we go there by a different route?  And we should be able to find some good wine areas around the Pyrenees, but even there they are skirting the best locations.

VV, I am really glad you responded.  I'll link to your blog when I post more tomorrow.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Jul 8, 2011.

Hi Foxall, I was out of contact with the Internet over the 4th of July weekend and finally got reconnectect with Snooth on Wednesday for the virtual tasting.

Thanks for the insight on Cab Franc.  I had heard that bell pepper could be a trait of Cab Sauv that was "young."  Interesting to learn it is an expected character in Cab Franc.

The route for this year's tour is dissapointing from a wine exploration perspective.  Last year's Vuelta Espana and this year's Giro d'Italia were much more interesting.  So, I am taking liberties with the wines I am sampling.

This week I will be comparing a 2008 Fall Line Red Willow Bordeaux style blend to an actual Bordeaux Blend from Chateau Moutte Blanc (I have the 2006).

Looking forward to your post tomorrow.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 9, 2011.

Okay, as I said before, today's stage, Stage 8 (Sat., July 9) goes very near the Dordogne, but it's not really wine country.  Farther down the river, you've got Bergerac, Cahors, and eventually the Auvergne.  But drinking any of those would be a little like cheating.  If you are going to do it, Bergerac is the closest to the Massif.  The Massif and the climbing are the point of the race.  But the Massif is home to Limousin, the home of the most sought-after oak for barrels.  So drink some wine aged in French Oak barrels.  That opens the field up considerably.

By the way, last night's Loire red, a Chinon, was really good.  I'm thinking of buying more this weekend.

Stage 9 on Sunday takes us through the Haute-Auvergne, but don't be fooled.  Nowhere near Bordeaux, again.  It begins in Issoire, which is famous for climbing, hiking, chocolate, but not wine. Can't find a thing on their Tourism site that mentions wine. Ditto Saint-Flour, the end point.  It's mountains all day.  Really picturesque, but not that good for the drinking-the-route plan.

Monday is a rest day. Frankly, I might take my rest on Sunday.  Or, maybe we'll be drinking champagne, since we are going to be celebrating something at home. 

Tuesday the race resumes with Stage 10, Aurillac to Carmaux.  It crosses the Lot, which winds its way down to Cahors.  Bingo! That's our wine.  We're not quite in Cahors, but we're close enough, and we need some good wine. 

Wednesday it's Stage 11, Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur.  Lavaur is in the Tarn, home of Gaillac wines.   They use Mauzac, traditionally used in Limoux for sparkling wine, but also grown here.  Also a variety of reds, including gamay and syrah, that are in an early-drinking style similar to Beaujolais.  Wish me luck finding a Gaillac before Wednesday.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, Stage 12, we start back into the mountains, this time the Pyrenees.  Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden.  Cugnaux is right outside Toulouse.  At this point, you are in the Southwest, home of France's famed "wine lake." Toulouse is France's 4th largest city, and lots of good restaurants.  Cassoulet is a specialty.  So drink something that goes with that.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Jul 20, 2011.

Hey Foxall - How has your Tour de France wine tour been going?

I did a Bourdeaux match as the Tour headed South through the center of France.  Not exactly Bourdeaux country, but I took some liberties in making my selections.

Leading up to the rest day yesterday the Tour was riding East through the South of France finishing in Montpellier.  I selected a Syrah v. Cotes-du-Rhone challenge for this leg of le Tour.

The route is heading for the Alps this week and I am going to do a Chateauneuf-de-Pape challenge.


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 20, 2011.


Sounds great - sticking with my Aussie favourites - hoping Cadell gets the no 1 position tonight in the Alps and holds on until sunday


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 24, 2011.

Cadell Evans gives us Aussies our first Tour winner

I have to admit watching almost 90% of the race and sat up until 1.30am this morning to see him on the podium and listen to our National Anthem

No wine in my glass at that time but finished a bottle of 06 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz earlier to celebrate.

The wine was great and it went well with the steak we had earlier for tea

An Aussie heading an American Team to win Frances most prestigious event - we truly live in a diverse global community

Reply by dmcker, Jul 25, 2011.
Edited Jul 27, 2011

Which gives the answer to the question that was earlier posed in this blog. A good one, I've never been disappointed in reading.

Me, afraid it was a gathering with French and California pinots. Also some champers (good) and white Cotes du Rhone (not so good, shame on you Guigal). No cycling on. Does it count that the gathering was at a Frenchman's house?

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 25, 2011.

Congrats on the Aussie win, Stephen. 

Reply by spikedc, Jul 25, 2011.

Watched final stage with a nice bottle of South African (Boschendal) Savignon Blanc,

Congratulations to Cadel Evans, also well done Mark Cavendish for winning Green Jersey for us Brits !

Reply by Lucha Vino, Jul 26, 2011.

Yes, congratulations to Cadel on a great victory.  I will follow Stephen's lead and celebrate with an Aussie Shiraz v. Washington State Syrah.

Here is a link to my CdP matchup from last week.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 29, 2011.

Well, guys, I fell off the bike in a big way.  Actually, we went out of town on Wed the 20th, and I had planned on writing a bunch of posts Tuesday night but instead dinner plans got made and it was a scramble to set up the house lights on a timer, put the irrigation system on (I've been hand watering the vegetable garden this year, but had new transplants that couldn't survive the 8 days we were gone), and bring up the camping gear from the basement.  So I thought I would try to post stuff from the road. 

We had a tough couple first days, driving up the winding roads of US 1 and 101 on the coast, and my Verizon Droid couldn't get a signal most of the time.  When we finally wound up in Oregon, I left it at a motel in Coos Bay on Saturday.  They shipped it back home--but of course I was still on vacation-- and by then the race was almost over.  Worst, I had no access to the news so I didn't find out Cadel had won until Tuesday. 

I think my wine of the race (except drinking some good Aussie Shiraz--gotta go get some now!) was... Barolo.  Did anyone notice (that's you, VV) that the best wine region the race went into was Piemonte?  Okay, not right into Barolo country, but they didn't get any closer to Bordeaux, really.  So that was going to be my wine of the race, but my equipment failure caused me to drop out earlier.

Next year, I am getting a partner--it really is a lot of drinking and writing.  VV, any interest?

The good news:  I did get to visit a couple wineries in OR and will be posting about that and an interesting opportunity for the right entrepreneur.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Jul 30, 2011.

Foxall - Partnering up on the tour next year sounds like a great idea.  And, I agree on the best wine region being in Italy rather than France this year.

We still have the Vuelta coming up at the end of August.  We could go for a test ride in Spain to prepare for our 2012 adventure in France.  What do you think?  Here is the route for this year's Vuelta Espana

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 30, 2011.

V V, I am up to the challenge.  I looked at the route and I think it will be fun.  For one thing, my fondness for Spanish wines in general is undimmed.  A trip into Basque country adds a little flavor.  I'll start looking at the geography and send you a message privately so we can figure out how we want to organize. 

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 31, 2011.

Foxall and Vello

You should come down to Australia for the Tour Down Under

Not only a great ride and hits most of my home state wine regions but will get you out of the Norhtern Hemisphere Winter


Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 1, 2011.

SH: I live in the Bay Area, so winters aren't very harsh, but any excuse to go wine tasting, esp with you as the unbelievably knowledgable guide. My interest in cycling is limited to stage races like these, as I used to do endurance sports (marathons) and find it unbelievable that these athletes can ride 200 km+ day after day after day.  I also like mixing wine and cycling--cycling is the perfect speed for sightseeing, and I can take my all-purpose bike through vineyards, provided they aren't too steep, plus get from winery to winery.

Looks like this year's trips will be to NYC (we hope for a 90th b-day for a relative) and, if there's time and money left over, Italy next summer.  Get a house in the country and just plop down for a while, with occasional forays into cities. But Australia is on my list, and a trip to that side of the dateline if not across the equator is in the cards, esp as our friends in Nepal are becoming parents this year.

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