Monday, July 6, 2009

And So It Begins Again

Le Tour de France. For the 96th time in 106 years, the Tour began the annual pageantry of its circuit around France on Saturday. Most Americans may have been busy that morning preparing for their 4th of July festivities. I on the other hand was glued to the tube, forgoing the Wimbledon women’s finals – not to mention the possibility of a bike ride of my own – to watch the opening time trial of this year’s Tour.

Stage One:

Fabian Cancellara crushed it, storming the 15.5 km time trial course in and around the principality of Monaco nearly 20 seconds faster than his nearest rival. Monaco served as an epically beautiful starting point for this year’s race, even though, as the second smallest country in the world, a crossing into France was required as there aren’t 15.5 kilometers of suitable roadway in Monaco. (Trivia award of the day to anyone who can tell us what the smallest country is.)

Ever since I started this blog a couple of years back, I’ve thought about what a great idea it would be to map out a wine trail that follows the Tour route, writing up a wine or wine region (or beer or cheese, when necessary) that matches up with some point along the road of each day’s stage. But I’ve never managed to plan well enough ahead to lay it all out. This year, I didn’t even come up with an entirely appropriate pairing for day one. I’m not aware of any wine being produced in Monaco, so Provençal rosé would have made the most sense. Not a bottle in my cellar at the moment though… sad but true. Champagne might have been a fittingly celebratory substitute but, believe it or not, I wasn’t in the mood for wine that early in the day. Besides, bubbly is even more appropriate for the final day in Paris. So, given the race on the Riviera and the Swiss stage winner, I opted for something not too far off.

Coste della Sesia “Rosa del Rosa,” Proprietà Sperino 2008
$18. 12.5% alcohol. Diam. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
If you’re interested in somewhat detailed background information about Proprietà Sperino’s “Rosa del Rosa,” a Nebbiolo dominated rosé from Paolo de Marchi’s estate in Lessona, check out the review of the 2007 I wrote for WBW 47. For today’s purposes, suffice it to say that the 2008 is the color of a perfect slice of watermelon, right down to the pale greenish rind around the rim of the glass. In the mouth, it’s slightly frizzante – some bottles more so than others – and full of cranapple snap. Less complex than the 2007 in aromatic and textural terms, it’s still wonderfully refreshing, fruity and flavorful. Not too shabby an accompaniment to a dinner of pasta with a quick garden vegetable sauce.

Stage Two:
The first road race of this year’s Tour, Sunday’s stage left Monaco, following briefly along the Côte d’Azur before swinging upland through the heart of the Var. While I did get to drink some cool wines on Sunday, none were from Provence, the Rhone or the Var, much less from the Isle of Man, home of stage two winner Mark Cavendish. Perhaps I can coax Robert Camuto, author of Corkscrewed and recent contributor of a great segment to 31 Days of Natural Wine at Saignée, into guest blogging about his experiences – and what he drank of course. Sunday's stage passed directly in front of his house in the Var Department. That's him below, being interviewed by a press crew from France 2.

Much More to Come:

This year’s course is a strange one. Starting in the extreme southeastern corner of the country, it runs clockwise, eventually doubling back very close to where it’s passing in the first few days for the penultimate stage finish atop Mont Ventoux. From there, of course, there’s a transfer to the outskirts of Paris for the now classic and largely ceremonial yet still ferociously contested finishing circuits around the Champs-Élysées. As mentioned earlier, 21 Jours des Vins du Tour de France is not to be this year. But I imagine I will make another stage stop or two along the virtual route. Enjoy the race, all.


Rod Willis said...

Answer to trivia question: Vatican City is the smallest country.

TWG said...

July 4th was the women's finals, you didn't miss much. The men's final on Sunday was more like one of the longer Tour stages.

David McDuff said...

Good work, Rod. Vatican City it is.

Thanks for the proofreading, Tom. Duly noted and corrected. I was relaxed this weekend, so the days/dates did blur a bit. I didn't watch the women or the men, by the way, for the first time in a long time. The Williams v. Williams thing just doesn't do it for me.

Do Bianchi said...

I LOVE that Sperino. Great post, David. I'm totally geeked to follow the tour through McDuff's Food and Wine Trail.

Do Bianchi said...

P.S. I wonder if San Marino is smaller than the Vatican...

David McDuff said...

Glad to hear you've had a chance to try the Sperino rosato, Jeremy. I'll do my best to keep up with the Tour coverage, just don't expect daily updates as I know I won't be able to keep up.

Looks like San Marino, by the way, is number five. Here's a list of the 17 smallest countries in the world.

Do Bianchi said...

oh, I don't need daily updates... ;-)

I just need the McDuff report... following it through your eyes...

interesting about San Marino et alia...

blog on, brother!

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