Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tour de France Stage 16

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Gap 163km

From LeTour: “It’s the start of the final week. The race heads into Gap, crosses the Col de Manse, then drops down again into the finish after completing a small circuit. As we’re heading towards the Alps, this stage is not flat, which is what you would expect, but it isn’t too hard either as it just rises steadily throughout. . . Be aware also that something often happens after the second rest day, and it may be something completely unexpected. In 2003, for example, in order to avoid crashing into the prone figure of Joseba Beloki, Lance Armstrong opted, on pure instinct, to indulge in a bit of cyclo-cross over an Alpine meadow. That stage ended up making the headlines without any previously expecting it to."
Nice call by LeTour. Indeed on a day that was expected to be dominated by breakaways, the main competitors decided to come out and play.  The stage winner did come from the breakaway with Thor Hushovd getting his second (smash) victory after a massive effort in the day's escape group. But more interesting is what was happening on the road behind him. Pre-race favorite Alberto Contador decided to show that he was still in the game, opening an attack on the final climb. Then came the usual series of counterattacks. At the end of the day, the big winner was Cadel Evans. Evans showed that he's on fine form, soloing away from the rest of the group, gaining 4 seconds on Samuel Sanchez and Contador and 21 seconds on Frank Schleck. The Schleck brothers were the big losers today, with Andy losing 48 seconds. Is this a preview of what will happen in the Alps or just one bad day? A partial answer to be found tomorrow.  

Stage Winner: (Again) Thor (smash) 
Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (Hanging on far longer than anyone expected.)

Wine: Well, here we are in the Haute Alpes. I tried, albeit at the last minute, to find a wine from the area. But after coming up empty at three stores, it was off to the Savoie, a region I'll be drinking several times for during the last week of the Tour.
Tonight: 09 Andre & Michel Quenard Chignin (Mondeuse) Vieilles Vignes

From the importer:The Savoie is a picture of fairy-tale perfection: snow-capped peaks, green rolling hills, wildflowers, and cold, sparkling mountain streams. This idyllic region hugs the western Alps, where Michel Quenard farms twenty-two hectares of vineyards along the steep, terraced slopes of the Coteaux de Torméry around Chignin. The limestone scree that dominates this vineyard land has brought great diversity to the soils, and consequently, the wines. His grandfather started the domaine in the 1930s. Though he slowly increased the vineyard holdings, he also sold off most of his wine in bulk. It was not until 1960 that Michel’s father, André, began bottling under their own label. Michel joined the domaine in 1976. Today, his son, Guillaume, joins him, fresh out of wine school in Switzerland. While they are far from the only Quenards in Chignin, they are certainly the most well-known—perhaps this is due to the severity of their terrain and the quality of wines it produces. Andrew Jefford writes in his contemporary classic, The New France, “Michel Quenard and his father André are masters of the Bergeron grape, known in the Rhône Valley and elsewhere as Roussanne. They argue it should be limited to the best and steepest local sites where it can ripen fully, like the Coteaux de Torméry, giving wines of real texture and perfume as it does so.” (p 122). We think it is one of the most unique and beautiful renditions of Roussanne in the world.
Despite the domaine’s proximity to the Alps, the vineyards enjoy a surprisingly warm microclimate with southern sun exposure. Fig and olive trees are also found among the vines, unusual for such a snowy region. There are sixteen crus in the Vin de Savoie designation, and each commune is known for a different grape varietal. Michel’s vineyards are planted to some of the region’s best known: Bergeron, Jacquère, Mondeuse (also known as Refosco in northern Italy), Altesse, and Pinot Noir. Michel bottles eight different cuvées, seven of which are still, and the other a sparkling Vin de Savoie Brut, which is made in the méthode champenoise. The minerality of Michel’s vineyards expresses an alpine freshness and liveliness in his wines. His cuvées go beyond the simple “eclectic” that categorizes wines from the region; whether they are quaffed or savored, they are all unique revelations that reflect the complexity of their terroir and the fine artistry of this master vigneron.

My notes: Red fruits, violet and earthy notes. Nice acidity. Very easy to drink with my Fatted Calf salumi.

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