Tour de France by the Glass 2020 Stage 7: Land of the Albigensians and Domaine du Moulin

Friday propels the peloton westward from Millau, ever closer to the paths of the Pyrénées Mountains. Today’s stage will be a bit bumpy, with four categorized climbs followed by a meandering descent to the finish in Lavaur. On the surface it seems rather innocuous, a quiet stage before the all-out assault at the Spanish border.

Not so fast . . .

Stage profile map: http://www.letour.com

While Stage 7 may be another day for the break-away to succeed, a lot depends on the tactics of the GC teams. Adam Yates of team Mitchelton-Scott still wears the yellow jersey, it having been thrust upon him after Alaphilippe was assessed a 20-second penalty at the end of Stage 6.

Why is that important?

Yates did not come to the Tour with aspirations of a GC victory. In fact, he is still recovering from an illness. He and his team therefore set their sights on claiming as many stage victories as possible, without the stress and responsibility of defending the yellow jersey.

Well, now they have it, and they face a tough decision: continue with the plan to attack each stage, or scrap that plan and put together a new one that supports Yates in a quest for yellow, for the rest of the Tour. Risks abound, whichever route you take, so what do you do?

IT’S THE YELLOW JERSEY IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE! YOU GO FOR IT!

In my decidedly inexpert opinion, sometimes greatness is forced upon you. In the cycling world there is no bigger prize than the yellow jersey; you might not get another opportunity to make it yours. Totally worth hatching another plan and devoting the team’s resources solely to its success. Let’s see what happens . . .

A Note on Stage 6 Results

Alexey Lutsenko of Team Astana ventured out with the break-away early in the race, and fended off attacks from the other three riders to win the day. Very strong ride; well-deserved victory.

Photo: Team Astana Cycling

For us Americans, it was wonderful to watch 24-years-old-today Neilson Powless of Team EF Education participate in that break-away and even throw in a couple of attacks. It’s his first Tour and he rode like a pro, claiming fourth place over all. Happy birthday, Neilson!

Photo: Team EF Education Cycling

No changes to the jerseys: Sam Bennett in the green; Frenchman Benoit Cosnefroy in the polka dots; Tadej Pogacar in the white (best rider under age 25); and Yates in yellow.

Wine, Wine, What about the Wine?

Map courtesy of Wine Folly

We’re in the area of Gaillac (the right-most magenta spot on the map, above) on Thursday, where wines are based largely on native grape varieties that are uncommon elsewhere. There’s also lots of history to read up on as we sip.

Gaillac, once home to a branch of the Cathars known as the Albigensians (more about them below) makes wine from some rather obscure, local grapes.  White wine production relies heavily on Mauzac, which produces highly aromatic wines redolent of apple skins.  Much of this wine forms the base of the slightly more well-known sparkling wines of nearby Limoux.  The rest of it is blended with other indigenous grapes like Len de l’El (meaning “far from view” in local dialect) or Muscadelle, often to make sweet wine.

As for the reds, Duras takes pride of place in Gaillac, the only place with any significant plantings of this grape.  It is highly pigmented and full-bodied, and is commonly blended with the more tannic Fer Servadou in the local red blends.  If you can find them, they are well worth seeking out.  They are true wines of “terroir,” representing a strong commitment in Gaillac to local varieties over more commercially expedient international grapes like Cabernet and Syrah.

The Wines of Domaine du Moulin

The Hirissou family has tended the vines here for six generations. There are plots on both sides of the Tarn River, with clay and limestone soils on the left bank (making richly textured wines) and granite on the right (more tannic wines.)

Rocky, gravel soils at Domaine du Moulin (photo: http://www.ledomainedumoulin.com)

The domaine makes red, white, and rosé wines, as well as dry and sweet wines. For the reds, they rely on Duras and Braucol; the whites come from Mauzac, Muscadelle, and Len de l’El. Their flagship red wine is called L’Aigle Cinto: it is a blend of Tannat (60%), Syrah (30%), and Braucol (10%), and it’s labeled as IGP Côtes du Tarn.

Nicolas Hirissou and his flagship wine (photo: http://www.ledomainedumoulin.com)

I’ve never tasted any of the wines from this estate, but I think they’d make a fine choice for today’s sip-along suggestion. Aside from representing the winemaking history of the Gaillac region, the domaine also shares the name of one of the best riders in the peloton, Tom Dumoulin.

I doubt the Dutchman from Team Jumbo-Visma has much to do with the estate, but it gives us a nice reason to try a new wine.

Let’s raise a glass to that and wish the peloton Bon Courage. It’s going to be a rough weekend; they’re going to need all the support they can get.

But more on that tomorrow . . .

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