Stage 11: Andorra La Vella to Cortais d’Encamp

 Snow Wine in Andorra


Casa Beal Andorra
Casa Beal, Andorra


Stage 11 Le Tour

Wednesday’s stage, with its profile resembling the teeth of an upturned saw, will be a horror for most of the peloton – even for the climbers who purportedly love this terrain.  Take a look at the map, above.

And those measurements are in meters, so multiply by three to get the approximate elevation in feet.  With so many of the riders having participated in the Giro d’Italia in May, and/or the Tour de France in July, one wonders how they will fare on a brutal day like today.  Fitness will certainly count for something, but I think the honors will go to the guy who just happens to have the freshest legs after a summer of torture!

Andorra, nestled in the eastern Pyrénées Mountains between France and Spain, must be an agreeable place to live.  According to The Lancet in 2014, its people were the longest-lived on Earth, with an average life expectancy of 81 years.  The nation, which is technically a co-principality, is ruled as you would expect, by two princes.  But what you might not know, is one of those princes is the Bishop of Urgell (Catalonia) and the other, the President of France.  Not a bad perk from their day jobs, right?

The culture is predominantly Catalán but French, Spanish and Portuguese are also spoken by many of the inhabitants.  It is believed that Charlemagne granted the original territory of Andorra to its people after they fought with him against the invading Moors from the south.  Today the economy’s main drivers are ski tourism and banking, although Andorra may be more familiar as a tiny tax haven for wealthy individuals the world over.

casa-auvinya AndorraWine production is a fledgling industry here, and most of the vineyards are small with limited output.  That said, Andorra does have several wineries that strive to craft beautiful wine in the challenging mountain conditions.  Casa Beal (photo, top) produced the first wine in Andorra, called Cim de Cel, and Celler Mas Berenguer (photo above) is growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc for use in its sparkling wines.  Casa Auvinyà  (photo above, right) introduced the first Andorran red wine to the public in 2009: called Evolució, it is a blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah.  They also make a white wine called, Imagine, which they affectionately dubbed their “snow wine.”  An atypical blend to say the least, Imagine is an intriguing mix of Albariño, Viognier, and Pinot Gris.  Here’s a quote from the winery, which expresses the optimism of the team, despite the extreme climate in which they are situated.  It makes me want to pour a glass of Imagine right now, and pay tribute to their labor of love.

At Casa Auvinyà we respect the caprices of nature and we take great care in preparing our snow wine. Every day we watch the mountains, the clouds and the sky with a single wish: to be able to harvest with the first snows and before the ice comes and stops our work. Thus our white wine was born, which we imagine born of snow, with the colours of sun and moon.”

For more information on Casa Auvinyà, please visit

For more information on Andorran wine go to…/what-to-…/wine-tourism-in-andorra/