Tour de France 2020 Stage 11: Another Flat Day and Wines from the Haut-Poitou AOC

If you didn’t watch Stage 10, you missed a glorious day of riding along the Atlantic coast, a landscape dotted with lighthouses and the famous citadel and city walls of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. The fortifications, designed by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban during the reign of King Louis XIV, were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008.

My husband, who is a big military history buff, was thrilled to see one of Vauban’s star fortresses flash across the screen, in between shots of the peloton. I thought it was pretty cool, too. Wherever the route sends the riders, there is something beautiful to see and something interesting to learn. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate that now more than ever.

Great video from Vincent Laporte

Tuesday’s race course was flat but, this close to the ocean, brought the wind into play: with every twist and turn, the wind direction shifted, forcing the peloton to shift position on the narrow seaside roads. Add some traffic rotaries (called road furniture in cycling lingo) to the mix and you have the perfect recipe for a crash.

And we had at least three of them on Stage 10. Fans of Tadej Pogacar held their collective breath when he was caught in the first pile-up and had to pace himself back to the front. Despite the nerves on display, most of the peloton stayed upright and finished the day without incident.

The sprint finish brought the usual suspects together, with the last few meters contested bravely by Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan, and Peter Sagan (and finishing in that order.) As a result, Bennett took back the green jersey and I have had my first serious doubts as to whether Sagan will prevail in Paris. Lots of racing to go, though, so I’m not worried just yet.

What’s on Order for Stage 11

Slightly less flat than Tuesday’s race, Stage 11 includes one categorized climb and a few hilly sections. It’s another day for the sprinters, whose opportunities for glory will be few and far-between over the next week. Barring unfortunate surprises affecting the GC favorites, the overall standings should remain as they are. But this is the Tour, and such surprises are, well, not surprising. Stay tuned.

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

Wines of the Haut-Poitou AOC

Elevated from VDQS to AOC status in 2011, the Haut-Poitou wine region comprises 90 hectares distributed among 30 communes in the Vienne département and one in Deux-Sèvres. Most of the vineyards lie on a vast plateau that varies from 80 – 120 meters above sea level. The climate is continental, with some modifying influence from the Atlantic, to the west.

A large fault runs through the Haut-Poitou, with distinct soil types on either side: to the north and east there is cretaceous clay over tuffeau chalk, with patches of red terres d’Aubois. South and west lies a Jurassic-era plateau, with pebbly topsoils lying over calcareous limestone.

Wine production dates to Gallo-Roman times, and really got a boost when Eleanor of Aquitane married Henry Plantagenet (King Henry II): England became the major export market. Growers in Haut-Poitou suffered the plague of phylloxera, as they did elsewhere in France and Europe, causing them to replant and revive their livelihoods.

With the relatively recent promotion to full AOC status, and the well-known grape varieties that make up the majority of the wines produced here, Haut-Poitou wines should be attractive to savvy buyers looking for high QPR wines.

Red wines rely predominantly on Cabernet Franc (at least 60%) and Gamay (no more than 60%); Merlot, and Pinot Noir. White wines draw on Sauvignon Blanc (at least 60%), Sauvignon Gris (no more than 60%); there is also some Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Rosé is made from Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.

The Wines of Domaine de la Rôtisserie

Barrels at Domaine de la Rôtisserie

Jacques Baudon represents the fourth generation of his family to grow grapes and make wine in this area outside of the city of Poitier. He and his son, Michael, farm just over 23 hectares of vines, including ten different varieties:

  • Cabernet Franc (6.2 ha)
  • Gamay (5.5 ha)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (5.35 ha)
  • Pinot Noir (3 ha)
  • Chardonnay (1 ha)
  • Chenin Blanc (.80 ha)
  • Fié Gris (.65 ha)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (.50 ha)
  • Viognier (.50 ha)
  • Merlot (.30 ha)

Total production is about 80,000 bottles per year, and the domaine makes all three colors of wine; dry and moelleux styles; and traditional method sparkling wines.

I don’t recall ever seeing wines from the Haut-Poitou AOC on my local wine shop shelves, but I plan to track down a bottle or two. The mix of varieties intrigues me, as does the region itself: close to the Loire Valley appellations of Saumur and Tours, with nods to Bordeaux and Beaujolais. How could any wine lover resist?

Traditional method sparkling wine from Domaine de la Rôtisserie

Here’s a bottle from Domaine de la Rôtisserie to propel you on a quest to find one, too. It’s a traditional method sparkler made from a combo of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Doesn’t that sound like a delightful way to toast the peloton?

And, by the way, if you do manage to find a bottle from Haut-Poitou, please share your experience in the comments section. I’d love to hear about it!

See you tomorrow!

4 comments

  1. About six years ago I watched every stage of the tour becoming a Sagan fan. Hoping he hangs in there.

    Reading about Haut-Poitou here, seems it’s kind of a Loire outlier similar to Fiefs Vendeens- they hang on the periphery. Like you, don’t recall seeing wines from this region… one to track down. From Rôtisserie, Fié Gris really catches my eye! Stellar coverage Lauren!

    Liked by 1 person

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