Saturday marked the first stage of the 2018 Tour de France and, true to form, Le Grand Départ boasted enough controversy to satisfy all factions in the sport’s fan base. Chris Froome of Team Sky was cleared to ride at the eleventh hour, when the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport’s governing body) overruled the ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation, which owns the Tour) decision to ban him as the result of a positive doping test LAST SEPTEMBER. Whether you’re a supporter or detractor of the omnipotent and omnipresent Froome and Company, the last-minute change in plans offered fuel for the inevitable Twitter rants that dominated social media.
Then there were the crashes. On paper, Stages One and Two looked to be boring and flat, with the chance of an errant crosswind the only hope for drama in the peloton. But this is the Tour de France, mes amis, and there’s always a twist or turn to create chaos, even on the quietest days.
In short, here’s what happened:
- Chris Froome took a tumble about 5K from the finish, flying over a barrier, and landing in a field. He wasn’t hurt, but he was separated from the front of the pack and lost over a minute on the day.
- Nairo Quintana, one of Team Movistar’s THREE leaders (ugh, don’t get me started) hit a curb and broke both wheels. Because the team cars were kept behind the peloton (very narrow roads) he had to wait quite a while for a replacement bike. End result? A minute and twenty seconds off the lead.
- Lawson Craddock, the American rider on the EF Education First – Drapac Squad crashed badly, damaging his left eye, fracturing his shoulder blade, and basically ending up a bloody mess on the side of the road. But you know what? He got back on that damn bike and rode 25K to the finish. Badass of the Day, in my opinion.
- Almost every other GC contender (guys who have a chance to win the overall yellow jersey) fell into misfortune of some kind, leaving Vincenzo Nibali the only one unscathed. Hmmm . . .
You get the picture. Nothing was as predicted, which is very predictable when we’re talking about cycling’s premier Grand Tour.
During Stage Three’s team time trial, things got back to normal. Team BMC won the day, with Sky coming in a close second. In essence, it’s as if Froome’s fall never happened because he benefits from the team’s stellar performance in the time trial. Most of his rivals lost time to him today, which had the odd result of leveling the field: with the exception of Nairo Quintana, the GC contenders are all close to each other again.
For more details on the first few days of the Tour, visit the official website here.
So, What Are We Drinking?
Over the first few days, the race courses back and forth between the Brittany coast and the western reaches of the Loire Valley, where France’s longest river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the Pays Nantais, it’s the perfect place to indulge in fresh seafood as you sip on a glass of the local white wine. In this case, that would be Muscadet.
There are seven delimited areas (known in France as AOCs) in the Pays Nantais that produce wine from Melon de Bourgogne, most of which is aged sur lie, meaning the wine rests on spent yeast cells that are a by-product of fermentation, resulting in a creamy, rounded texture.
- AOC Muscadet – the largest AOC in size, but produces only 20% of all Muscadet
- AOC Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire – the smallest AOC, making wines of pronounced salinity
- AOC Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu – known for its fresh and fruity wines
- AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine – vineyards lie between the Sèvre Nantaise and Petite Maine rivers and take credit for 75% of all AOC-level Muscadet made in the region. There are three designated crus within Sèvre et Maine that make wines of particular distinction. Yields for all three crus are lower than for Muscadet Sèvre et Maine in general and, despite longer sur lie requirements, they may not label their wines as “sur lie”:
- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clisson, whose wines spend at least 24 months sur lie, and which offer up complex aromas and flavors of dried fruit.
- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Gorges, which also has a minimum 24-month sur lie requirement, but whose wines often rest much longer on the lees. Known for smoky mineral aromas and an ability to age.
- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Le Pallet has a slightly shorter sur lie requirement (17 months) and is recognized for the delicate floral notes in its wines.
Where to Find It
One of the best things about Muscadet is its affordability (think $10-$20 for a good bottle). It’s also relatively easy to find. Inquire at your local wine shop or even take a look at the shelves in your grocery store. I know that my Whole Foods store usually has a bottle or two of regular AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine. The crus may require a deeper dive, perhaps online, but are well worth the effort.
While you’re shopping, why not stop by the seafood counter and pick up some oysters, clams, and mussels? Eat them raw with a dash of mignonette or steam them in a little white wine, garlic, and parsley. Pour yourself a glass of Muscadet and pretend you’re in France, toasting the peloton as it speeds by!
Cheers to you and Vive le Tour!
Wine Scholar Guild, French Wine Scholar Study Manual