TdF Stage 14: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Today we’ll see if there truly isn’t any mountain high enough to keep Vincenzo Nibali from winning his first Tour de France. Yesterday’s peaks were high enough to crack Richie Porte and many others, but Stage 14 features the Col du Lautaret and Col d’Izoard, and if the climbs don’t shake things up, the very fast, steep and technical descents will. Fingers crossed that Jakob Fuglsang is able to continue after he was taken out by an errant water bottle. He finished the stage, but as we’ve seen, sometimes it’s the day following the crash that shows the severity of an injury. Fuglsang has been Nibali’s right-hand man during the Tour so far, but as Nibali showed yesterday after Fuglsang’s crash, he’s got the legs to go it alone when needed. Is the only drama left in the race seeing who can earn a podium spot beside Nibali? And whether Peter Sagan can win a stage, which seems to be the prize he has his heart set on this year, despite having a strangle-hold on the green jersey, if he can avoid crashes and other disasters for the rest of the race.

stage 14

We’ve opted today to talk about Clariette de Die, which is close by, if not exactly on the race route. It’s a wine that caught our attention recently and that isn’t very well known outside of France. It’s a naturally sparkling wine from the Rhône valley, with ancient origins, first mentioned by Pliny the Elder, but which legend has it goes back to Gallic tribes who left wine in jars in the Drôme River over the winter. Some versions of the story say the wine was placed there deliberately to overwinter, while others claim a shepherd put wine in the river to chill it and simply forgot. In either case, the wine was retrieved in spring and found to be pétillant (lightly sparkling), and for centuries afterwards, people in the region repeated the process.

 

Diose vineyards are some of the highest altitude vineyards in France, planted on the slopes of the Vercors Mountains in chalky argilliferous soil. We’ll admit to checking what kind of soil “argilliferous” soil is. The short version? It’s clay, with “argil” often used to refer to white potter’s clay. The clay in the soil helps retain water during the long hot summers.

To imitate the ancient river method of creating Clairette de Die, the Méthode Dioise Ancestrale evolved and is now protected by AOC regulation. The grapes are pressed immediately after harvest and left to ferment at very low temperatures for a month or two. The wine then undergoes a second fermentation in bottle until the fermentation ends on its own, leaving the wine slightly sweet. The only clarification the wine undergoes is a quick emptying and refilling, again intended to resemble the ancient way of making the wine. The local cooperative, Cave de Die Jaillance, produces 80% of the region’s wine and a full 10% is organic.

By Agne27 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Agne27 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It must be made from a minimum of 75% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and a maximum of 25% Clairette, with some of the best made of 100% Muscat. The vinification process helps preserve the delicate grape flavour of the Muscat, but the wine is also characterised by aromas and flavours of peaches, tropical and citrus fruits, honeysuckle and white flowers. Clairette de Die is only about 8% abv, making it an agreeably light, slightly sweet celebration wine.  If you like Asti, which also has a slightly grapey Muscat flavour, you may like Clairette de Die even better. It’s ideal for those times of day when you don’t want a heavily alcoholic wine, and also a good dessert wine because of its light sweetness.

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