Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 6: Greipel & Roger Coulon Coteaux Champenois Blanc

Where are we:
Le Tour link
A bit on our start town from Of Gallo-Roman origin, Arras is famous for various reasons; in the XII century, the city was granted a commercial charter by the crown and enjoyed international importance in banking and trade. By the XIV century, it became a center of wealth and culture, renowned worldwide for its draperies and tapestries, known in Italy as “arazzi”.
The extremely well-preserved military history of Arras and the surrounding Artois region hit you hard when you tour the place. During the First World War, major battles occurred here such as the famous “Battle of Arras”.
The famous underground passages of Arras, called “Boves”, were used to shelter the civilians, and the British soldiers launched a successful attack against the German army from there.
During the Second World War, more than 200 opponents from different nationalities were executed in Arras between August 1941 and July 1944. Their memory is preserved at the ‘Citadel of Arras’, which was classified as part of the ‘world inheritance of humanity’ by UNESCO in 2008.
Le Tour specialties: Arras sausage, le Coeur d'Arras (cheese), le Bleu d'Arras, porcelain painting

Reims: When I think Reims, my mind goes to Champagne, but a bit of history from to the legend, Reims was founded by Remus, Romulus? brother who founded ancient Rome. The Celtic tribe who lived in the region might have taken therefore the name of Remes.About 80 BC, the Remes built an oppidum which they called Durocortero ( circular stronghold) After the Roman conquest, Durocortorum was integrated into the Roman province of Belgium and became its capital. At its height, with its 30 000 inhabitants, the Gallo-roman city was the most populated in the North of the Alps.
Specialities: Champagne, gingerbread, pink biscuits, Reims ham, Clovis mustards and vinegars

Le Tour preview: I have already talked of teams built around sprinters... Well then, I would not be surprised to see a breakaway stick on the day after the cobblestones stage, as we continue to commemorate the centenary on the roads of the Battle of the Somme and the Chemin des Dames. Yes, this is a stage for the brave, with lots of twists and turns towards the end, so the wind could also play a role... If attackers happen to come up short, a power sprinter may prevail on the long, leg-breaking false flat on the final straight. Last year's Kittel and Greipel would have had lots of fun here.

The race: A relatively flat and short stage today, with rain, the possibility of crosswinds and an exhausted peloton. Why, yes, there could be echelons! A day for the breakaway to stay away or another sprint stage. If it ends in a sprint, Greg Henderson had some advice:

The early break, this time in visual form:
Interesting, by the way, to learn that only 41 riders crashed yesterday and there was only one dnf. Of course, it was the pre-race favorite. Some thoughts on Sky and their Froome vs Wiggins issues here from the always worth reading Joe Lindsay. Also: worth watching this OPQS video from yesterday.
Meanwhile on the road, Giant-Shimano was leading the chase, hoping for another Kittel win.  And then as we saw rain falling, two crashes in a very short time period. Up front, Nibali asked Giant-Shimano to slow the race down, but as the sprintermediate loomed, they pace did not slow greatly. Out of the race after those crashes: Zandio and Silin. Ahead, Mark Renshaw takes the sprint from Sagan. More crashes, as the wind picked up and riders jockeyed for position. Not surprisingly, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, master of the crosswinds, was on the front pushing the pace. 65km to go and gap to break was down to 57".

But they would make it back. Meanwhile on Podium Cafe we were talking about crash statistics. 

Another abandonment: Jesus Hernandez. It appeared that the peloton had decided to let the break dangle: with 38 kilometers to go their gap was 48”. Cool helmet gif here. 23 kilometers to go and they pulled the cars out of the gap, with only 24 seconds between the two groups. 

Still fighting the catch was Mate. But he would be caught. With the peloton going full gas toward the line, echelons! Among those caught out: Mikel Nieve and Thibaut Pinot. Watching OPQS on stages like this is a joy. 

Nice move by Kwiatkowski and for a minute it looked like he might take the stage! But there was the sprinter so far missing in this tour: Greipel! Tough sprint there and apparently a puncture for Kittel. 

Stage: Andre Greipel
Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali

Wine: 2008 Roger Coulon Coteaux Champenois Blanc

From Frankly Wines

Winery profile from the importer:
Eric and Isabelle Coulon are the representatives of the eighth generation of the Coulon family to be engaged as recoltant-manipulants, producing Champagne from Vrigny and the surrounding villages in the northwest corner of the Montagne de Reims.  Since 1806, this family has gradually increased its holdings so that there are now 10 hectares under vines, almost all located within the 1er Cru rated villages of Vrigny, Coulommes and Pargny, about 10 kilometers distance from Reims.

Production at Champagne Roger Coulon is approximately 90,000 bottles per year.  The vineyards are planted 40% to Pinot Meunier, 30% to Pinot Noir and 30% to Chardonnay.  The average age of the vines is 38 years, a rarity in Champagne where old vines, and the limited production that is the result thereof, are often considered a curse rather than a blessing.  Further, the vineyards are planted by the selection masalle process rather than with modern clones.  No herbicides are used and harvest is done manually. The juice from the red grapes is fermented and aged in stainless steel but much of the Chardonnay is fermented in small oak barrels (not new).  Only the natural, indigenous yeasts are used.

The Coteaux Champenois Blanc is a still white wine produced, on rare occasion, exclusively from Chardonnay from a specific vintage; bone dry, a pristine expression of the chalk and limestone of these vineyards in the northwest corner of the Montagne de Reims; bottled unfiltered from a 3 barrel production (approximately 750 to 900 bottles)..

Producer website:

I say: Getting a bit weird here, but why not? This is a still white wine from Champagne. I blame Frankly Wines. It sounds silly to type, but this is a wine that looks and tastes like Champagne, but without the bubbles. It is weird and  fascinating. Very dry. The acid of Champagne, check. Some yeast  notes, check. Do I want to keep refilling my glass? Also, check.
Info on a lovely sounding Coteaux Chamapenois tasting here.

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