Tuesday’s race was slow, compared to the pace of the last few stages. With the green jersey battle between Team Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck lighting up the roads (and destroying the peloton) even the so-called easy days have been hell. And with the yellow jersey race distilling down to Pogacar and Roglic, there has been constant pressure in the mountains.
No rest for the weary, especially in the Tour de France.
In fact, Wednesday amps everything up a few notches, with the hardest course yet: two HC climbs (HC stands for hors catégorie, or beyond categorization). The first climb, up the Col de la Madeleine, includes 17 kilometers of agony on the way to the summit at 6,562 feet. After a perilous descent, the riders must gather their strength to ascend the Col de la Loze, topping out at 7,560 feet.
Sounds like a fun day, right?
Well, it will be for us: the sprint points come early in the race (45.5 kms from the start) and will be hotly contested. Expect Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett to go toe-to-toe trying to claim the top prize. And don’t forget Matteo Trentin of Team CCC. He’s been steadily accumulating points over the past few stages and is now in third place in the green jersey competition. Coming so early in the day, everyone’s legs will be fresh, so get ready for the fireworks.
With respect to the GC standings, Stage 17 could be the defining moment of this year’s Tour. Egan Bernal lost more time on Tuesday, taking him out of the overall competition. But, if he’s feeling well, nothing prevents him from flying up the mountains to a stage win. Aside from the two Slovenian favorites, Rigoberto Uran, Miguel-Angel Lopez, Adam Yates, and Richie Porte are all within striking distance – especially if bad luck befalls either Pogacar or Roglic.
And Now, the Wine: Let’s Talk More about Vins des Côteaux Alpins
Yesterday I gave you some background on the wines made near the ski slopes of the Savoie region of France. I featured the wines of one of the subregions – the Vin des Allobroges IGP. Today I’m delving into two others: the Isère Balmes Dauphinoises and Isère Côteaux du Grésivaudan IGPs:
Soils in both regions are morainic, formed during ancient glacial movements that created the Alps themselves. The climate is continental with some Mediterranean influence, a combination that allows the grapes to ripen fully but retain some freshness. While the growing season starts later here in the mountains, the hot, sunny summers help growers make the most of it.
The bise, a dry north wind, helps cool the vineyards in summer, contributing to a substantial diurnal shift of temperatures. It also provides ventilation for the vine canopy, drying out any lingering humidity that could pose a threat of disease.
In the Balmes Dauphinoises district, which lies due east of Lyon, near the Massif des Bauges, vines are planted in east-west valleys with southern exposure, all the better for fully exposing the grapes to sunlight. Underlying the well-drained topsoils is a large plateau of limestone that retains enough water to sustain the vines during dry periods.
The Côteaux du Grésivaudan looks like three spokes extending from the city of Grenoble, a bit south of the Balmes Dauphinoises. Vines here are planted in the foothills of the Massif de Chartreuse, where they face southeast and maximize their time in the sun.
Both regions have undergone changes in their winemaking tradition since the early 2000s. During that time, there has been an influx of young vignerons, many of whom focus on organic and/or biodynamic farming, often using the region’s wide array of indigenous grapes.
Domaine du Loup des Vignes
Since 2003, Stéphanie Loup and her husband Mario have tended the nine hectares of vineyards at Domaine du Loup des Vignes in the Balmes Dauphinoises region of Isère, France. I love her tagline:
De la terre, au verre, c’est une vraie passion!
From the earth to the glass, it’s a real passion. I bet her wines would be a real pleasure to drink. Most of the acreage is planted to Chardonnay, and it’s no surprise that it makes up one-third of this traditional method sparkling wine. (The balance is one-third each of Jacquère and Viognier.)
And, from the winery’s Facebook page, here’s a video showing just what to serve with a glass of the Domaine du Loup des Vignes Blanc Brut: a slice of Tourte des Alpes! It’s in French but still enjoyable to watch.
So, as you tuck into a tasty snack and sip a nice sparkling wine, I’ll bid you adieu. Have a great time watching this killer stage of the Tour!