Tour de France by the Glass 2016: Stage Nineteen, Albertville to Saint-Gervais/Mont Blanc

Abondances Cheese
Abondance Cheese;

Only three days to go until glorious Paris!  And from where things stand before Friday’s race to Mont Blanc, it looks like Chris Froome is destined to repeat as Tour champion.  But the battle for the other podium places will be hotly contested, with Richie Porte moving quickly up the ranks.  While no one seems likely to challenge Froome for the yellow jersey, second and third places are up for grabs, with victory for the men who can survive the next two days, both leg-cracking mountain stages.  Quintana looked defeated even as he started the time trial on Thursday; rumors that he is nursing an illness abound.  Mollema, still in second place, seems to be fading, while Adam Yates and Romain Bardet appear to get better.  Should be an interesting two days of racing in the Alps.  That said, it won’t be easy.  Friday’s race menaces the peloton with one climb after another.  Check out the stage profile map: it will be another long and arduous day.

Profile Stage 19


The Savoie and World War II

Plateau des Glières; Yann Forget, Wikimedia Commons

The backdrop for Stage Nineteen, the Glières Plateau, played an important role in World War II, serving as a supply center for the French Resistance.  Its location, nestled in the Alps, was considered extremely difficult to breach, much less navigate.  But the nearby Plateau, an open field encircled by the mountains, made a perfect drop-off point for supplies.  In January 1944, British planes conducted three parachute drops, keeping local resistance fighters stocked with arms, ammunition, and communications gear, thus bolstering their efforts to fend off German forces.  While the fighters held their ground for several weeks, troop reinforcements that had been promised them never arrived.  Ultimately, they succumbed to Wehrmacht and Vichy forces in March during the Battle of Glières.


Food and Wine

We are still in the Savoie region of France, home to delectable cheeses and crisp white wines.  One of the most famous of the local cheeses is Abondance, which received AOC status by the French authorities in 1990.  But it’s been made for centuries here, with a history that dates back centuries.  Perhaps the Abondance authorities can say it better than I can.  Below is an excerpt from their English-language website  and a traditional recipe using their favorite product, Berthoud Savoyard:

Abondance cheese, which was granted the AOC label (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in 1990, is a famous French cheese. It can be recognised by its amber crust and concave edge. A hundred litres of milk are needed to make one cheese that weighs between 7 and 12 kilos. Your taste buds will be tantalised by the delicacy of its fruit and hazelnut flavours. You can taste Abondance cheese in the village’s restaurants, either served on a cheese board or as part of a traditional dish in which it is the essential ingredient, such as Berthoud Savoyard.

Photo courtesy of

Berthoud Savoyard    


Abondance cheese
White Savoyard wine
Madeira wine
Salt and pepper


Rub the inside of small ramekins with garlic and then place thin slices of Abondance cheese in them.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Pour the white dry Savoyard wine over it all and if you like, add a little Madeira.
Bake in the oven at 180° to 200° for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve with potatoes baked in their skins and local mountain ‘charcuterie’ and a green salad.

Apart from the Abondance cheese, there are many other local and traditional products or winter or summer delicacies that will delight your senses!

And what do the locals drink with that?
Be seduced by the white wines produced on the shores of Lake Geneva (Ripaille, Crépy, Marin, Marignan) or the local liqueurs (Génépy, Gentiane, Grolle)… all in moderation of course!


Wine Suggestion

As with yesterday’s stage, it may be difficult to track down a bottle of wine from the Savoie.  In that case, choose a light, crisp white wine, perhaps a Riesling or Pinot Gris from Alsace or even a white Côtes du Rhône.  Or try a Crémant from any of the French regions that produce it.  Crémant, if you remember, is a sparkling wine made in the same manner as Champagne.  But because it is produced outside the prescribed region of Champagne, it can’t be labeled as such.  Almost all of the wine areas of France make a little Crémant, and you will know where it comes from by the name on the label.  For example, Crémant d’Alsace comes from Alsace in northeastern France.  Crémant de Bourgogne, from Burgundy.  You get the idea.

Whichever wine you choose, enjoy it as you watch the riders course through the last two big stages before Paris.  And you know what we will be drinking on Sunday?  Champagne, of course!

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