Cycling through the vines – the Tour de France – Part 2

French vineyards awaiting the Tour de French with yellow jersey, green jersey and king of the mountains jersey on a wooden board

And we’re back with the second instalment of the wine regions the Tour de France is passing through this year. After visiting Italy and Burgundy, next the peloton will go to Champagne!

Champagne

Stage 9 will see the cyclists still in this year’s Tour enter Champagne with a route starting and ending in the city of Troyes. It’ll be a hilly day for the riders with four category 4 climbs. The city itself is home to over 3,000 medieval half-timbered houses and is the capital of the Aube department which producers 25% of Champagne’s famous drink. The 199km route will take the peloton out west into the Côte de Bars, an area known for growing Pinot Noir grapes. This is Champagne’s southernmost vine-growing region and the grapes produced here go on to create Blancs de Noirs  or are added to the blends for Champagne houses located further north in Reims or Épernay. The route skirts many different producer’s vineyards and comes within a stone’s throw of the likes of Drappier, an iconic Aube house that is certified carbon neutral, and Elise Dechannes, a small house that employs organic and biodynamic practices, both iDealwine partner producers. Hopefully the winner of the stage will be able to celebrate with the town’s famous fizzy drink.

Loire

Following a rest day, Stage 10 starts in Orléans and meanders its way through the Loire region until it reaches the small town of Saint-Armand-Montrond. This will be a day of grand manor houses and extravagant châteaux with sprint points up for grabs at kilometre 57. The Loire Valley is vast wine growing region covering over 1,000km from Auvergne to Pays Nantais and while this stage of the Tour misses the ‘big name’ appellations, it does pass through the town of Reuilly. On the appellation’s 275 hectares, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grow. About 50% of the wine produced is a dry white wine aged on its lees with notes of lemon and white fruits and they make an affordable alternative to the Sancerre wines crafted in the east of the region. Red wine with cherry and peach flavours are created from the Pinot Noir grape grown in this continental climate and the same grapes can be used to produced rosé either by itself or as a blend with Pinot Gris.

South West

After cycling over the extinct volcanos of the Auvergne and several other hilly days in the South West with points for King of Mountains up for grabs, Stage 13 will see the Tour enter the Pyrenees towards the end of the day. Before the cyclists get to the two category 4 climbs as the stage nears its end, they will zoom through the village of Madiran at kilometre 116. If the name rings a bell, that’s likely because it’s here that Château Montus crafts its bold, tannic wines. Tannat is the leading grape variety in this appellation with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinenc in support vehicles. These varieties are used to soften the bold Tannat tannins and taming them is key to crafting a delicious wine. Winemakers here play with the use of new and old wood as well as oxygenation, before ageing the wines for several years, sometimes even 10, before releasing them onto the market. If you’re sat there thinking  “I like powerful Bordeaux wines, will I like these ones?”, the answer is a resounding yes. And what is more, they are just simply perfect with the rich, regional cuisine such as duck breast or with gamey dishes.

Languedoc

Stage 16 takes place after a well-deserved rest day following several gruelling days in the Pyrenees. Starting in the picturesque, seaside village of Gruissan, the cyclists will quickly find themselves in Narbonne before heading north of Montpellier and ending the day in Nîmes. The day will be spent cycling through the Languedoc AOP appellation. The vines flourish here under the warm Mediterranean sun with refreshing sea breezes to cool them down. The AOP was created in 2007, replacing the former Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, and is home to some star names such as Grange des Peres. Full-bodied red wines, crisp and herbaceous white and flavourful rosé – not to forget sparkling crémant – are made here from 15 different grape varieties. When the cyclist zoom through the town of Pézans, they will not be far from the vineyards of Domaines des Aurelles and Prieuré Saint-Jean de Bébian. These biodynamic and organic estates, respectively, both produce red wines bursting with flavours that would pair beautifully with slow-cooked beef stew.

At kilometre 118.2, the Tour will traverse the Pic Saint-Loup appellation. Located 30km away from the Mediterranean coast, it’s named after the limestone escarpment which soaks up the hot sun, while the high elevation of some vineyards offers cooling nighttime temperatures for the vines. The appellation only produces red and rosé wines from grape varieties usually seen in the south such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. The red generally contain spiced aromas and feel silky on the palate, while the rosés are fruity and floral and would pair well with summer dishes such as ratatouille and gazpacho. Eloïse, one of iDealwine’s purchasers, tells us to look out for the wines from the biodynamic wineries of Héritage du Pic Saint-Loup, a leading figure in the appellation, and Clos Maire, a renowned winery producing wines full of finesse.

Rhône

Stage 16 crosses into the Rhône Valley wine-growing region when it finishes in Nimes. The Costières de Nîmes is the most southernly appellation in the region. The sandy clay, mostly flat vineyards nurture Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre vines  for red-wine production and Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for white wine. There are plenty of Rhône Valley wines to quench your thirst on iDealwine, no matter if you’ve just cycled a Tour de France stage or not.

The next day, the Tour de France skirts several more Rhône appellations as it starts its day further north in the town of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. The cyclists won’t be a million miles away from the vineyards of Cairanne in the early kilometres of the stage. The appellation achieved Cru status in 2015, meaning you’ll see bottles after this date with simply the word Cairanne on the label. Pre 2015, wines from here fell under Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Cairanne so don’t be surprised if you see that written on bottles at iDealwine auctions. The red wines are produced using the classic Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, also known as GSM, blend and they would pair beautifully with an Italian ragu sauce like Bolognese. White wines are produced from traditional Rhône varieties but they’re less common. Michel Richaud, an iDealwine partner, follows a natural and no-intervention approach to produce his clean and precise wines that allow the terroir and the varieties used to shine.

And it finishes in Provence? Are you sure?

Normally the teams spend the final stage cycling through the Paris region with the famous scenes of the sprint finish on the Champs-Elysee, but this year’s Paris Olympics means that the finish has been to the Provençal city of Nice.

Now if the weather would play ball, we’ll soon be able to start sipping Provence’s roses regularly on the terraces here in France. Light and fruity, they are perfect for a hot day or on a summery evening that still holds the day’s warmth. It just wouldn’t’ t be summer in France without the likes of Château Grand Boise, Domaines Ott, or Domaine de Rimauresq. But as June has seemed more like October in most of Europe and July is off to a rocky start (everyone has become a stereotypical Brit when all they can talk about is the weather it seems), maybe a red Bandol is more in order. These reds are produced around the town of Bandol to the west of Toulon and can be characterised by their structure, pronounced flavours and velvety tannins. Some of favourites include La Bégude, Domaine de la Tour du Bon and Domaine de Terrebrune.

So now we’ve gone through all the wine regions the Tour de France is heading to in 2024, which stage’s wines are you most looking forward to? It’s a tough choice to choose just one, we know.

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.