The Tour de France is one of those summer events that brings people together. Something other than the weather to talk about with strangers on the street, an excuse to head over to a friends house with coffee in hand at 6 in the morning or cancel evening plans to spend the night on the couch with a glass of wine.
There is perhaps no better way to beat the summer heat than by watching some of the world’s greatest athletes fly up mountain passes and wind through tiny French villages. Cured just so happens to have a rather unique insight into the tour, owing to the fact that owner Will Frishckorn has himself not only ridden in the Tour de France, but has also eaten his way across the entire country during his racing career and knows the best, and most interesting, offerings from every region. In honor and celebration of this year’s Tour de France, we’ve put together a tour of our own…one that is a bit more accessible for the mere mortal. All you need to partake is a love a cheese, a passion for French wine, and a good appetite.
As the cyclists make their way around France, so do we, only our trip is a bit more pleasing to the palate and less punishing to the legs…
A Brief Overview of the 2016 Tour de France
This year the Tour begins in France, for what seems like the first time in ages! It’s more an more normal for the race to kick off in a neighboring country, but we’re lucky that they decided to start on home ground this year, and in cycling mad Normandy to boot. While Normandy isn’t known for wine, it sure is for cheese, and they also happen to make some of the finest ciders the world has ever seen…lucky us!
After a few days banging around the flat, windy, often rainy, northern French countryside, 4 days nearly in as straight line take the race through the Massif Centrale and into the Pyrenees. A handful of days bouncing back and forth between the French and Spanish sides of this mountain range see the race follow the Mediterranean for a couple stages, then straight up the side of Mont Ventoux. Needless to say, in the week leading up to this giant climb, the racers will see miles upon miles of grape vine planted earth, with more than a few dairy animals watching them ride by.
Once Ventoux is conquered, the race heads up the rhone valley and hapilly stays right in the heart of great wine-and-cheese country, even when it heads into the alps and crosses into Switzerland for a brief bit. A flight from Morzine back to Paris for the last day happens to cross Champagne in the air…prompting a fairly perfect feather in the cap to what should be a fantastic tour, both to watch, and to eat along with.
Our Stages This Year
July 2nd, 3rd and 4th: As the riders follow the coastline of Normandy we’ll be enjoying Eric Bordelet’s Sidre Tendre, a picture perfect, absolutely textbook example of French Cider. Low alcohol, delicately sparkling and slightly off-dry, it couldn’t be happier alongside another product that nearly defines the region: Pont l’Eveque. Stinky, rich, savory, and absolutely delicious, Pont l’Eveque is one of france’s oldest cheeses, and was made initially by the Cistercian Monks in the 12th century…a good reminder how young our cheese making culture is here in America!
July 5th, 6th and 7th: As we start the transition south, we’ll be enjoying two incredible regional delicacies that couldn’t be happier side by side. The Breton’s Sparkling Vouvray and Valencay, a pyramid shaped goat’s milk cheese. Ash ripened and like Pont l’Eveque, this cheese also has some serious history… it turns out Napoleon was obsessed with Pyramids, at least until a military blunder cost him his Egyptian love affair, even changing the shape of the cheese a touch, flattening the top as not to offend him on his visits to the Loire valley. Catherine and Pierre Breton are the real deal – young, true farmer-winemakers, and their fully biodynamic wines from the Loire valley are what others dream of producing. We love their sparkling Chenin Blanc and its versatility with foods of all flavors, especially cheeses with a little bit of punch to them like Valencay.
July 8th, 9th and 10th: The race hits the hills this weekend and as the riders slog their way up into the heart of the Pyrenees you’ll likely see a LOT of sheep dotting the hillsides. It turns out that if you’re in France and you see a lot of dairy animals, you’ll likely also find some great cheese. Lucky for us! We’re enjoying Ossau-Iraty, a classic alpine sheep’s milk cheese from the hills that the race rolls over. The wine this stage is from the roads just before the riders hit the hills, a region called Cahors. Cahors, known as the “black wine” of the region, is a dark, inky earthy wine, and the Chateau La Grave that we’re sharing is unique in that it’s 100% malbec, a rarity in a region where Malbec is often blended with a bit of Merlot or Tannat. We love French Malbec, something that the regulars of our shop know well, and are excited to add this new one to our collection in the wine shop.
July 11th, 12th 13th and 14th: While the riders have a day off spent in Andorra before dropping along the Mediterranean coast, we’ll enjoy an incredible red wine from 100% Cinsault vines just up the hill from Montpellier. The Aupilhac wines are all organic, and made by a third generation winemaker known for his intensity in the vineyards and in his farming practices that make for some truly captivating wines. On the cheese side, we’re taking a departure from France and inserting one of our favorite American cheeses inspired by what you would find in Provence, Rivers Edge Chevre’s True Love. It defines fresh goat cheese, and we only wish we could have it in our fridge every day of the year!
July 15th, 16th and 17th As the riders work their way north up the Rhone river valley, we’ll enjoy two products that speak to the region to perfection. Amazing rose from the Mas de Libian house, and St Marcellin. Marcellin is a young, creamy, delicate little cheese with a rich mushroomy side we cannot get enough of…Especially when an incredibly dry, crisp, saline bottle of biodynamic bottle of Grenache and Syrah happens to be open alongside it… Lucky you! And lucky us. We only receive limited amounts of both of these each year and it’s a treat for us to get to feature them in our Cured de France pairings this year.
July 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st: The race has bounced into Switzerland as it attacks the high alps, and we’ve chosen one of our new favorite swiss cheeses to celebrate. Schnebelhorn is a new cheese made by a young cheesemaker from his own small family farm. With a touch of cream (skimmed from neighboring Appenzeller) added into the milk during production, Schnebelhorn has a creamy, yeasty, rich side that is absolutely irresistible. Our wine comes from the French side of the Alps, and is from the Tissot Family, a name familiar to many regulars in our shop. That said, rather then their standout sparkling Cremant de Jura, we’re going to be drinking one of their reds, a light bodied, super-energetic blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard, the three main red grapes of the region.
July 22nd and 23rd. The last couple of days in the Alps brings us Tomme Creyuse and the Jean Masson et Fils Apremont Blanc. Products both made high in the Savoie hills, these show character in ways sometimes forgotten in these modern times. Tomme Creyuse is a classic cows milk tomme, with a tangy, mushroomy, toasty side that just calls out for an incredibly crisp white wine. Jean Masson comes to the rescue with his Jaquere, an indigenous white grape that makes a lean, stony, floral white wine that we love with alpine cheeses of all shapes and sizes. We also happen to love it during lunch, dinner, happy hour, or brunch on any hot summer day…
July 24th, the Arc de Triomphe! As the riders bounce up and down the Champs Elysee, we’ll sit back with our own miniature wheels of Brillat Savarin and a bottle of champagne. Brillat Savarin is a triple cream cheese to rival the best of them, and the mini wheels we’ve been getting are a perfect example of what it is all about – rich, decadent, creamy, with a mushroom note that prompts bite after bite with nothing other than a crusty baguette (provided!) needed. The Moutard Family (it’s hard to get more French than that!) make one of our favorite everyday champagnes. While not a “grower champagne” technically, all of their fruit does however come from family members. All Pinot Noir fruit, their Non-Vintage Champagne has become something we almost always have on hand at home, and is the perfect way to cap off this amazing 3 week adventure!
The Cured de France is $45 a stage or as a whole bundle for $330. Shipping is available for the full tour in 3 bundles for $95 together WITIN COLORADO ONLY. Call the shop at 720.398.8096 x1 to sign up today!