Today's Sponsors:
 California Wine Club

In This Issue
 Tour de France Wines for watching world-class cycling.
 Pascal Jolivet 2003 Sancerre ($16.79) Elegant expression of Sauvignon Blanc in a snappy young wine from the Loire.
 Two from Switzerland Swiss treats available only from California Wine Club's International Selections.
 California Wine Club Ready for a worldwide wine adventure?
 This week on Meeting "Dr. Feelgood," choosing a wine consultant, and notes from Burgundy.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index Links to recent articles in the Wine Advisor archives.
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Tour de France

Tour de France What's the connection between wine and bicycle racing? It's simply a matter of terroir ... the French land, that is, a fertile soil that gives rise to some of the world's best wines and, coincidentally, to Tour de France, the annual bicycle races that BBC Sport calls "... the world's biggest annual sporting event ... the greatest bike race on earth," a 3,395-kilometer cycling challenge that virtually brings France to a standstill for most of July.

Tour de France 2004 begins in Liege, Belgium, on July 3 and follows a winding, generally counter-clockwise route around France, with 22 teams of nine riders each competing along a prologue run and 20 "stages" that wind up in Paris on July 25.

"The first race took place in 1903," reports the BBC, "and over a hundred years later it remains as popular as ever. It attracts competitors and millions of followers from all nations."

And those millions apparently include a few Wine Advisor readers, who wrote to urge me to come up with a Tour de France wine list, a selection of French wines to match the route so wine-loving racing fans can sip appropriate fluids as they watch the bicycles.

Always eager to sign on to offbeat approaches to wine, I'm willing to give it a try! As it turns out, the Tour de France route isn't as well-suited to a stage-by-stage wine list as one might wish: Much of the first part of the race traverses Northern France, wheeling along the country's northern segment from Belgium to the north of Paris and later taking a long run through Brittany, where the northern latitudes and cool climate don't foster commercial vineyards. Later in the Tour, the race's jovially sadistic planners have routed stages through grueling mountain regions of the Massif Central, where you'll find few vineyards; and the routers peevishly bypassed such great wine regions as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace.

But it's difficult to travel far in France without finding wine, so here's a quick shopping list for those who'd like to watch some of the stages while sipping something appropriate to the day's races.

  • After that first northern run, racers will finally reach wine country on Friday, July 9, at the end of a 190-kilometer stage that runs from Bonneval, near Chartres, to Angers in the Loire Valley, where there's a bounty of delicious white wines (and a few good reds). If you insist on proximity to the race route, the long-lived, Chenin Blanc-based Savennieres and the delicious dessert wine Bonnezeaux are produced near Angers, not to mention the crisp pink wines of Anjou. For today's tasting report, though, I went up the Loire a bit to find an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.
  • Wine-loving race fans then must endure a fairly long period of racing through wine-deprived Brittany, followed by a jump to the mountainous Massif Central before the cyclists reach another wine-producing region. But patience is rewarded on Thursday, July 15, when a 164-kilometer stage winds up in the village of Figeac, a name that evokes a familiar Bordeaux chateau but that, more important, is only a short jump from Cahors. Celebrate this stage, then, with a Cahors red, which is made from Malbec and at least in olden times, was fashioned in a style so robust that it was nicknamed "black wine."
  • On Saturday, July 17, cyclists will traverse the French Pyrenees on a challenging 217-kilometer stage from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille. I suggest saluting this mountain ride with the strong but luscious red Grenache-based dessert wine Banyuls, or if you prefer, its similar neighbor from Maury.
  • The next day's stage begins at the wonderful medieval walled city Carcassonne and traverses the heart of the Languedoc on a 200-kilometer stage to Nimes, near the Rhone, where cyclists will take a day's rest on Monday, July 19. Let's start by celebrating their arrival in Carcassone with a sparkly Blanquette de Limoux. (A rendition from Saint-Hilaire was reviewed in the Dec. 31, 2003 Wine Advisor.) This day's race runs through many of the familiar Languedoc appellations - salute the racers with (for example) a Minervois, Corbieres or, perhaps my favorite Languedoc, a sturdy red from Pic Saint Loup. Mark their day in Nimes with a Costieres de Nimes from the hillsides of the region.
  • The 179-kilometer stage on Tuesday, July 20, runs along the Cotes-du-Rhone from Valreas to Villard-de-Lans, making this day's wine choice a simple one: Choose a red Cotes-du-Rhone or even a white, or if you want something a little fancier, one of the more upscale Rhones from specific villages like Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Cairanne or Rasteau.
  • Wednesday, July 21, through Friday, July 23, involve mountain racing in Savoie and Haute-Savoie, ancient Alpine regions producing quaffable, crisp Vin de Savoie. (I rated the Pierre Boniface 2000 Apremont Vin de Savoie as one of my top-value wines of 2002; look for more recent vintages now, as this is a wine to be drunk young and fresh.) Friday's stage ends in Lons-le-Saunier in the Jura, where the local wines are interesting but not often exported. If you can find an Arbois or intense vin de paille from the Jura, give it a try.
  • Sunday, July 25, it all wraps up with an exciting stretch run along the Champs-Elysees in Paris. There is only one choice to toast the victors, of course: Champagne.

The official Tour de France Website is online in French and English. You'll find the English-language start page at

Full television coverage in the U.S. is on Outdoor Life Network (OLN) on cable, with its cycling pages at

For more serious bike-racing fans, check Bicycling magazine's Tour de France coverage here:

If you have questions or would like to comment about today's topic (or other wine-related issues), you'll find a round-table online discussion about this article in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Now, here's a fine fresh Loire white to sip while watching the Tour riders race to Angers on July 9. Or for that matter, for just about any summery occasion.

Pascal Jolivet Pascal Jolivet 2003 Sancerre ($16.79)

This clear, light straw-color wine shows a greenish-brassy hue in the glass. Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas blend a characteristic "grassy" quality with appetizing notes of citrus. Crisp flavors offer fresh citric fruit over mouth-watering acidity, with an attractive, cleansing lemon-peel tang in the long, clean finish. U.S. importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (June 20, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: A fine match with both courses of a simple summer dinner: A Spanish potato-and-egg tortilla and an Italian caprese salad of ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil with plenty of olive oil. For a more traditional match, pair it with light seafood and fish.

VALUE: The dollar's decline against the Euro is pushing good French and Italian wines dangerously close to the $20 mark, but that being said, this is a better-than-average Sancerre, and the $17 I paid at retail in Louisville (Liquor Barn/Springhurst) is a few bucks below the $20-plus rate that appears to be standard for online vendors.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not a fragile wine, it will keep for a year or two, but it's not going to get any more crisp and refreshing than it is right now.

WEB LINK: Pascal Jolivet's attractive and informative Website is online in French and English:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The winery Website offers a useful list of distributors in many countries around the world. Click the "Distributors" icon from its Home Page for details. Also, you can find vendors and compare prices for Jolivet wines on,

Two from Switzerland

Now, speaking of Tour de France cyclists pushing their machines up long mountain slopes (not to mention the just-finished Tour de Suisse), here's a report on a couple of appealing wines from the Valais in the scenic Alpine beauty of Switzerland's French-speaking cantons. These intriguing Swiss wines are available in the U.S. only from The California Wine Club's International Selections. For details, see below.

Alpege Alpege 2002 Pinot Noir du Valais

Fairly dark garnet with reddish-purple glints against the light, on the dark side for a Pinot Noir. Its complex and appealing aromas show a kinship with the French style: Earthy and herbal "forest floor" notes add interest to fresh sour-cherry fruit. A bit austere on the palate but beautifully balanced; vibrant fruit and cleansing acidity make for an appetizing and palate-cleansing food wine. Its overall style reminds me a bit of a high-quality village Beaujolais, but there's no need to seek French analogies in a wine that's distinctively Swiss. Available in the U.S. only from California Wine Club. (June 3, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: As noted, it's an exceptionally food-friendly wine, capable of matching a wide variety of red meat, poultry and cheese. It served very well with a roast free-range chicken infused with plenty of garlic and herbs tucked under the breast skin.

WHEN TO DRINK: Lacking experience with Swiss wines, I'm reluctant to overestimate ageworthiness, but its distinct Pinot character, fruit and excellent balance suggest that there'd be no harm in keeping it several years under good cellar conditions.

WHERE TO BUY THIS WINE: Available in the U.S. only through California Wine Club's International Selections. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

Valais Jacques Germanier 2002 Chardonnay Noble Cepage du Valais

A pretty brassy tinge adds visual interest to this very pale straw-color wine. Fresh apple and peach aromas are pleasing and complex, with a distinct white-flower note in the background; swirling brings up just a touch of almond. Juicy and round flavors, lush fruit on the first taste gains structure from gentle acidity that builds to a pleasing lemony snap in the finish. Excellent wine. Available in the U.S. only from California Wine Club. (June 10, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: Like any fine Chardonnay, this would make an excellent match with poultry and richer seafood.

WHEN TO DRINK: So well-balanced and fresh, it's ready to enjoy, but given reasonably good storage conditions, on its side in a coolplace, I wouldn't expect it to fade over the next couple of years at least.

WHERE TO BUY THIS WINE: Available in the U.S. only through California Wine Club's International Selections. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

California Wine Club

The California Wine Club:
Ready for a worldwide wine adventure?

This week's 30 Second Wine Advisor introduces you to two outstanding selections from Switzerland. If you're interested in trying the Jacques Germanier 2002 Alpege Pinot Noir du Valais or the 2002 Chardonnay Noble Cepage due Valais, sorry but you won't find them in any local store! In fact these wines have been imported directly by The California Wine Club for their International Selections series and are only available through the Club.

The International Selections ships every other month and includes two bottles of wonderful tasting wine from countries like Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain and every fabulous wine growing region in between! The cost averages $75 and includes an engaging four-color newsletter, Passport. These are wines not currently available in the U.S.!

To join The California Wine Club's International Selections call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Wood on Wine: Dr. Feelgood's Love Potion
Columnist Linwood Slayton had the pleasure recently to meet a man in Washington D.C. who calls himself "Dr. Feelgood" and whose passion for wine is truly intoxicating - no pun intended. Christopher Columbus George III, 78 years young, has been making wine in his backyard garage since the early 1960s. Slayton gleans a few salient bits of information in this touching interview.

Dave McIntyre's WineLine: Training Your Wine Consultant
Your dealings with a retail wine consultant can grow into one of the most fulfilling, rewarding - and expensive - relationships of your life ... but how should you choose a wine consultant?

Robin Garr's Wine Travel Diary: Burgundy and Champagne 2004
The complete travel diaries of my recent group tour of Burgundy and Champagne with French Wine Explorers are online, featuring day-by-day tour reports that include notes on more than 100 wines, a dozen excellent dinners, and information and photos about the many wine-related stops along our way.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Introducing Selby (June 18, 2004)

 Anything AND Chardonnay (June 16, 2004)

 Scoping out Mount Palomar (June 14, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Lebanese Kibbeh (June 17, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, June 21, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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