Cycling through the vines – the Tour de France – Part 1

Tour de France passing through the countryside

This year, like most years, the Tour de France will pass through French vineyards. This means we’ll have many more idyllic scenes of the bikes and riders zooming past French vines that in some places on quiet country lanes grow right up to the side of the road. The bonus of this year’s Tour is that it starts in Italy and travels through three of the nation’s wine-growing regions.

We’re going to take you along the 2024 route, stopping off at each of the wine regions along the way. Each section will offer names to watch out for, fun facts and maybe a few of our favourite wines.

A mini Giro d’Italia

The Tour de France departs from a different country every year and in 2024, it’s Italy! The competitors will spend three days cycling through this fine sporting and wine-producing nation, starting in Florence. What follows will be a mini Giro d’Italia through Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont.

Stage 1 kicks off in the magical city of Florence. The opening kilometres will certainly be set against a beautiful backdrop. Now, as we all know, Tuscany is one of Italy’s top wine-producing regions with vines planted on its rolling hills. It’s home to names such as  Sassicaia, one of the first Super Tuscans to be crafted from typical Bordeaux varieties, Masseto, a wine entirely made from Merlot by Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia, and Biondi Santi. For those of you on the lookout for the next producers to back, we have a present for you: a list of five estates to try as soon as possible!

  • Tenuta di Valgiano – This biodynamic estate produces intensely fruity and fresh wines with its bottle Mezzapink pairing wonderfully with lasagna.
  • Massa Vecchia – Nature is at the heart of everything at this 6-hectare property which grows vines, olive trees and cereals. It’s sweet Passito dessert wine is certainly one to try.
  • Poggio Antico – Allowing the fruit to shine is the aim of this producer which chooses to intervene as little as possible in the winemaking process.
  • Podere le Ripi –  The vines here are tended to following biodynamic principles and the grapes they produce go on to create perfumed wines with good ageing potential.
  • Le Macchiole – This estate crafts single varietal wines from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, which is slightly unusual in this region, and ages them in barrels and cement vats.

The Tour heads west and by the end of Stage 1, it will have changed wine region, entering Emilia-Romagna. This is one of Italy’s oldest wine regions with evidence of production dating back to the 7th century BCE. You will have no doubt heard of its most famous wine export, Lambrusco. These red, frizzante wines became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, picking up a poor reputation due to the large-scale, poor-quality production of this era, but there are now some artisan producers bringing quality back to the Lambrusco name.

Stage 3 takes the Tour de France – cough, the mini Giro d’Italia – into Piedmont. This mountainous region in Northern Italy boarding France crafts some of Italy’s finest wines from the Nebbiolo grape variety. Think Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. This stage of the Tour actually passes through the town of Asti, which is known for producing Barbera d’Asti, a red wine made from the aforementioned grape variety and Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling white wine made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grapes. The latter have a very low alcohol content, standing at around 5%, they would make a good brunch beverage, especially if you were serving fruits and sweet dishes. What is more, the spumante also pairs well with spicy Chinese cuisine and fruit desserts like pavlova.

A banner of the Tour de France from 2021

Burgundy

Stages 6 and 7 will take us through the Who’s Who of star Burgundian appellations. For lovers of Burgundy’s southern wines, Stage 6 is the one for you. Starting in Mâcon, it meanders its way north to Dijon, passing at least six appellations. First of all, we have to take a moment for Maconnais wines themselves. The appellation named after the starting town grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay vines on rolling limestone hills to create white, red and  rosés. Mâcon-Villages are white wines crafted in a dry, floral and fruity style from 27 villages that fall into this more qualitative appellation. A wine to try from one of these said villages is the Mâcon-Fuissé from J.A. Ferret. This elegant Chardonnay has wonderful hazelnut aromas and a palate that is equally balance between body and acidity.

 Next, the Tour passes through Givry which can be found in the Côte Chalonnaise. Givry mainly produces red wines although some white ones can also be found. Joblot, an iDealwine partner producer and renowned winery, is based here and creates sophisticated wine full of elegance and finesse. On kilometre 74, the cyclist will enter the town of Chagny, on the outskirts of Chalon-sur-Saône which gives its name to the Côte Chalonnaise. Not far from the town itself grow vines that go on to create Rully wines. The Chardonnays are floral and fruity, while the Pinot Noirs reveal red and black fruit flavours that are balanced out by the tannins which become smooth after a few years’ ageing.

Just down the road is Chassagne-Montrachet, a Côte de Beaune appellation known for its stunning white wines. The appellation boasts 55 premier cru and five grand crus vineyards. Bruno Colin is just one of the producers making Chassagne-Montrachet. He owns 22 climats there, including eight classed as premier cru, all of which have unique characters and produce vastly different wines. He also owns a few plots of vines in the next appellation the Tour comes to: Puligny-Montrachet. It’s here that some the most prestigious white wines in the world are made. Although a little red wine is produced here, it’s really white wine that is king here with more than half of the appellation’s 235 hectares classified as premier cru and 23.1 hold grand crus status. It you’re looking for a Puligny-Montrachet that friendly on the purse strings, check out Au Paupillot by Clos du Moulin aux Moines. Its nose possesses white and tropical fruit aromas and delicate woody notes which become vanilla and brioche flavours on the palate. Not to mention that Clos du Moulin aux Moines was founded by the monks from the Cluny Abbey which the riders will also zoom past on Stage 6.

Meursault is the final appellation of the day. Located about eight kilometres south of Beaune, 96% of the vines here are Chardonnay that go on to produce rich, mineral white wines with toasted hazelnut and floral notes. Just 13.5 of the total 395 hectares produce red wines with 700 square metres of Premier Cru vines. If you’re looking for a new producer to try in this appellation, iDealwine’s Burgundy buyer Amice suggests Remi Jobard. This estate produces organic wines in vineyards that are grassed over to entice the vines to plunge their roots deeper into the soil. And her favourite bottle produced by the property? Well, that would be En Luraule which is rich and bursting with candied fruit aromas.

A cyclist from 2021 on the individual time trial taken by Jessica

Stage 7 is an individual time trial from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin. We don’t know why but the Tour de France likes to organise its time trails through French vineyards. Maybe it’s because of the spectacular backdrop they give as the riders go zooming by… Our translator, Jessica, went to the individual time trial in 2021 which took the cyclists through the vineyards of Saint-Émilion. Wout van Aert took home the stage win that day – will he add another vineyard-filled win to his belt this year?

It’s hard to enter the world of wine and to not have heard of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin. These two appellations are home to some of Burgundy’s finest wines. 97% of the wine produced in the Nuits-Saint-Georges appellation comes from Pinot Noir grapes to create well-balanced red wines full of rose and liquorice flavours that pair wonderfully with roast lamb or duck breast. Meanwhile, Gevrey-Chambertin boasts nine grand cru vineyards which produce full-bodied, structured Pinot Noirs oozing cherry, strawberry, mulberry and floral flavours. Domaine Armand Rousseau, Domaine Leroy (an iDealwine partner producer) and Domaine Trapet Père et Fils are some of the most respected and reputable producers from the appellation. Domaine Tortochot also offer two Gevrey-Chambertin which are equally delicious and suitable for those on a smaller budget.

We hope you now have a little wine list with one or two new gems to enjoy as you watch the racers compete for the first stage wins.

Shop Italian and Burgundian wines on iDealwine

Jessica Rees

Jessica is the English translator at iDealwine. Alongside her work translating the blog, website and emails, she also writes her own articles for the blog. Hailing from Wales, she lived in Germany before putting down roots in France.