How to Taste Your Way Through the Tour de France

France is more than ready to forget about the World Cup, even though it is barely halfway done. Luckily, we’re on the eve of another great sporting event for Europhiles: Le Tour de France! Inspired by the cyclists’ route, we’ve organized a tour of our wines and cheeses. You’ll be able to follow the bikers as they travel through the peaks and plains of France. Winning teams will come and go, but France’s culinary delights will always be there.

Recapturing national honor off the soccer field.

Like the fearless riders, we begin our tour in France’s northerly neighbor, Belgium, with Lindeman’s Faro Lambic ($5.99). Lambic is a classic Flemish ale with a wheaty flavor profile. Created by spontaneous fermentation, the Faro Lambic is sweetened by Belgian candi sugar, following a traditional recipe from the bars in Brussels. Fruit and caramel aroma, balanced by subtle complexity and refreshing acidity. The flavor starts sweet, with suggestions of brown sugar or orange marmalade, and finishes with crisp tartness. Like a cross between a beer and a cider.

From there we drop down to Reims, one of the famous villages of Champagne. One of our favorite Champagnes is from this village: Henri-Abelé Brut Champagne ($42.00). Over 90% of the grapes for this Champagne comes from Cru villages. The wine is aged for four years in the bottle before being released, and the quality of the grapes allows the bright aromas of green apple and citrus to linger on among the notes of brioche and almond. We were lucky enough to get a few bottles of this Champagne, as only a limited number are sold to the U.S. each year! 90 points Wine Spectator

Next, we move to Montgardis in the Loire Valley, home of the Cone du Port Aubry ($9.25/quarter lb). This superlative raw goat’s milk cheese from affineur Herve Mons has a flavor that starts buttery and mushroomy, then fades into a pronounced acidity and nuttiness. Slightly pliable and crumbly texture. This will pair conveniently well with the Henri-Abelé Champagne!

The route then takes us to Burgundy. (Oh darn!) Seeing the rolling hills and pristine vineyards will quickly get you in the mood for the 2007 Domaine Arlaud “Roncevie” Burgundy ($24.99). Father, sons, and sister run this natural estate by the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. The Roncevie is 100% Pinot Noir, a pure and persistent bottling from a graceful vintage. It is a steal, outclassing wines from the villages-level appellation.

Alpine heights are the next obstacle for our fearless riders, and they will surely be craving a refreshing drink, like the 2009 Domaine L’Idylle “Cruet” Vin de Savoie ($10.99). Savoy is a region better known for its landscapes and cheeses than its wines, and that’s a crying shame. Just west of Burgundy, in a cool climate with steep terrain, grow a range of rare grapes, aromatic and bright. Domaine de l’Idylle has been making wines in the village of Cruet since 1840. This one is 100% Jacquère, a native variety that is vivacious and fragrant. Exudes pear, citrus, and floral notes, with bursts of green apple and minerality. The short period of sur lie aging gives a nice complexity and sleek body. A perfect foil to the richness of fondue and raclette, it also makes a wonderful choice for Kir (white wine with crème de cassis).

Being so close to Switzerland, you may as well indulge in the Scharfe Maxx ($6.75/quarter lb), a slightly smoky, deeply beefy, and immensely tangy Swiss cheese. Aged for 6 months, this thermalized cow’s milk cheese is washed with brine and herbs, giving it a powerful and sharp (scharfe) flavor and a dense, creamy texture. A fantastic melting cheese!

There will be a stop in Chambéry, the birthplace of Dolin Vermouth ($13.99). The only Vermouth that has earned an AOC designation, Dolin has none of the cloying sweetness or overly bitter qualities found in bottom-shelf Vermouths. The particular mixture of plants found near Chambéry give a fresh, restrained, and elegant nose with a subtle, complex, and bittersweet palate. Excellent both as a mixer and as an apéritif.

Looping up to Valence, the cyclists will speed through Montelimar before heading to the Pyrenées. Montelimar is known for its delicious Nougat. This Provençal treat made from almonds and pistachios are great with the Château de Pena Muscat de Rivesaltes ($12.99/375mL). A late harvest Muscat is a beautiful way to start or end a meal. Full bodied with a balanced sweetness, it exudes light floral notes, exotic fruit aromas, and orange rind. Try it and you’ll see why this wine is prized in the Pyrenées and beyond.

The finish line will be in sight when the tour arrives in Pau. Raise a glass to a race well ridden with the 2005 Chateau Montus Madiran ($37.99). Quite possibly the best wine from Madiran, this blend of Tannat (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) is made by Alain Brumont. It is a lusty wine, its inky color suggesting the richness on the palate and the nose. Aromas of toasty blackberries, leather, and oak make a complex and deep bouquet. The wine is firm, with well-integrated flavors of blackberry, raspberry, smoke, and clove. The finish is superb, lengthy and flavorful. This wine will cellar for several more years.

The last stop before Paris will be Pauillac, near Bordeaux. Not that you ever need an excuse to buy some Tome d’Aquitaine ($8.25/quarter lb), one of our all-time favorite cheeses. The beautiful snow-white interior of this washed-rind goat’s milk cheese will catch your eye. Washed in Sauternes by the respected affineur Jean d’Alos, it displays delicately balanced fruit and floral notes, and has a delicate nuttiness on the finish.

Craves @ PG

Muscat de Rivesaltes

Feed your Mind @ PG

Pampille's Table

An indispensable guide to the culinary regions of France. This cookbook was originally published in 1919, and the newly translated and updated edition makes it accessible for the modern kitchen.

Thanks for reading, see you soon!
Abi & Rachel

and
Steve Winston and Sharon Baden
Owners, Paris Grocery

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