Tour de France by the Glass 2019 Stage 17 Traveling through Tavel and Rasteau – Two of the Crus of the Côtes du Rhône

On Tuesday, the sprinters had one last chance for glory before the Tour concludes on the Champs Elysées in Paris on Sunday. Naturally all the big guys had plans to be at the front of the pack as the peloton crushed to the finish line in Nîmes. The outcome did not disappoint.

Sagan, Viviani, Groenewegen, Ewan, and Kristoff were in the mix as the furiously pedaling mass swarmed to the banner. Gosh, even Andre Greipel was there, looking for his first good finish in a while.

But, in a real nail-biter, Caleb Ewan plotted an almost impossible path to victory, following first one competitor’s wheel then another, until the perfect moment to launch his sprint. He seemed to have jet engines on his legs as he surged past Viviani and held off Groenewegen for his second stage win of the Tour.

Here’s a video recap of the stage:

What to Expect in Stage 17

Wednesday brings a long, hilly route that foreshadows the days to come: we’re in the foothills of the Alps and, while the stage won’t be particularly difficult, it will show us which riders and teams are up to the challenge ahead.

Two riders in the top ten in the overall classification crashed on Tuesday: Jacob Fuglsang abandoned the Tour with a hand injury, and Geraint Thomas (last year’s winner) got pretty banged up when he flew over his handlebars into the curb. He seemed okay immediately afterward and finished the race, but that’s no guarantee for tomorrow – or the remainder of the Tour.

Expect the GC contenders to ride cagily, protecting their positions – and their hides – from any threats or obstacles. I think the stage win will go to someone like Peter Sagan; a rider who is as fast as lightning but who can also persevere in the hilly parts of the route.

Tour de France by the Glass Recommendations: Tavel and Rasteau

Early in the day, the riders will pedal through two cru villages of the Côtes du Rhône region of southeastern France. Crus have been singled-out for the high quality of their wines and may label those wines with the name of the town, an honor given to just 17 villages.

Tavel Rose
I’m an unabashed fan of the Tavel style: deep color, concentration, and complexity.

Tavel, which we’ll visit first, makes only rosé wine, mostly from Grenache (but 9 grapes are permitted) all of which must be produced via the saignée method. Saignée literally means “bled” in French, and it refers to the process of bleeding off a bit of the must from red wine and then fermenting it like a white wine. Most rosés made this way are deeper in color and have a bit more structure than their paler cousins made via the direct press method (aka intentional rosés.) Provençal rosé is a good example of that style.

Which style is better? Depends on your personal preference and what you think rosé should look, taste, and smell like. I love both styles and have plenty of each in my own personal stash.

Château de Ségriès was founded in 1994 by Henri de Lanzac, cousin of the late Christophe Delorme from Domaine de la Mordorée. The estate comprises 58 hectares of mostly old vines, with parcels in Tavel, Lirac, and Côtes du Rhône. It’s always a solid value at about $20 retail. Try it with a grilled steak – it can take the match-up!

Rasteau, on the east side of the Rhône River, is unusual in that it makes two distinctly different styles of wine that qualify for cru status: the first, vin doux naturel, is a sweet wine with at least 45 grams/litre of residual sugar and at least 15% alcohol by volume. It can be red, white, or rosé.

In 2010 Rasteau added dry red wines, usually from a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, to its roster. Vineyards here are south-facing, which allows full exposure to sunlight and protection from the rough Mistral winds.

Palace of the Popes in Avignon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France).
Palace of the Popes in Avignon, along today’s route. (photo: Stefy Morelli via iStock)

If you’re unable to locate a bottle from either Tavel or Rasteau, ask your wine purveyor for a good Côtes du Rhône. There are many versions available, and from good producers, too. Enjoy the race and all the Roman ruins along the way.

I’ll be back tomorrow with sipping suggestions as we ascend into the Alps. It’s gonna be a blast!

Vive le Tour!

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