Thursday, July 8, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 5: Épernay to Montargis

I'm getting a rather late start on today's Tour report, just having watched the prime time coverage of today's stage. Continuing the inevitable march southward toward the Alps, the riders departed from the heart of Champagne this morning, riding roughly parallel to the Côte de Sézanne on a SSW path toward the stage finish in Montargis, birthplace of the praline as I learned tonight, in the Loiret Department. Today's relatively flat stage profile seemed tailor made for another field sprint finish, which indeed turned out to be the case.

The beginning kilometers of today's race saw the peloton roll down the beautiful Avenue de Champagne in the heart of Épernay. If we're lucky, we may just have a bit more detail on that leg of today's stage in the days to come. For now, though, just a pretty photo (below, courtesy of

As obviously adrenalin pumping and exciting as a sprint finish can be to watch, there are many other aspects of Tour spectating that I'm sure prove befuddling to many. Six hours spent in the saddle, sometimes seemingly just riding along in a pack until that final 5k throw down, is only part of it. There's a ton of strategy and teamwork that's quite difficult to understand until you've actually participated in the sport. Then, there are also certain unwritten rules of conduct that can be unique to cycling. Take the entire pack's agreement not to contest the finish at the end of the crash-riddled Stage 2 — not something you're likely to witness in too many other sports, at least not that I can think of.

Another such gesture of sportsmanship occurred on today's stage, one of a simpler nature and one that will continue to occur throughout the race, as Épernay resident John Gadret, riding for the French Ag2r squad, was given the freedom to roll ahead of the pack on the way out of town to stop and visit his family, who were out spectating along the race route. It's always a touching moment, one that shows there's still an old-school, gentlemanly side to the sport.

As I alluded to yesterday and in my race preview, there's really no such thing as too much Champagne. Perhaps Gadret's family celebrated the passage of the race with bottle or two of something like this.

Champagne Brut Réserve, Bérèche et Fils NV
$45. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
I must agree with Peter, at least within my somewhat limited experience with the range of Champagnes produced by Raphael Bérèche, that it's the Extra Brut Réserve that is the most expressive, complex and complete. That said, it's Bérèche's regular Brut Réserve in which I take easier and more regular pleasure. Part of that is price point, of course, but it also has more than a little to do with the enchanting, engaging fruit richness combined with a clear sense of soil expression that bursts forth from this wine. An unmistakable streak of red fruit, backed by notes of brioche and crunchy minerality, all of it in a fresh, very easy to drink style.

The current release is based primarily on fruit from the 2007 vintage: a blend of 25% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, along with 30% reserve wines from 2006 and 2005. About 20% of the wine is barrel fermented, with the balance done in enamel lined tanks, all of it undergoing its primary fermentation on native yeasts. There's plenty more information to be found on Bérèche's newly redesigned website, should you desire it.

I noticed for the first time in several years of enjoying this wine that a recent shipment included disgorgement data on the rear label. Actually, that's the bottom portion of the rear label used in France, allowed to show beneath the American importer's label that was pasted over the remaining body of the French rear étiquette. The stamped style is a little tough to read — you may have to click on the above pic for an enlarged view in order to see it clearly — but I make this batch out to be L71209, which I take to mean disgorged on the 7th of December, 2009.

Tough to decipher or not, I hope it's a trend in the making as I'd love to see this info appear on all of Raphael's wines, on all Champagne for that matter. Is that really too much to ask?

Up next: today Champagne, tomorrow the Loire... or is it Burgundy?

1 comment:

stevie said...

It would really be nice to see the disgorgement date being labelled on all Champagne bottles.
It would surely make it a lot easier for consumers to verify what they are buying.

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