Tour de Wine! A Look at Wine Regions and Famous Cycling Routes
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Tour de Wine! A Look at Wine Regions and Famous Cycling Routes

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Vintage Cellars
June 28, 2018
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At this time, when all eyes are on the bike trails of France, it’s interesting to look at the country’s most picturesque wine regions and cycling routes.

France is blessed with beautiful food and wine and a varied and striking geographical climate. Often the regions which produce the finest wines are also the prettiest to visit. Here’s a look at popular bike trails of France and the wines that can be found there.

Burgundy

Older wine regions offer some of the most scenically beautiful recreational cycling, as vines were often planted in smaller plots in hilly countryside. Burgundy’s vines were first planted by the Romans and its historic quarter, Beaune, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. The introduction of the Voie Verte and Voie Bleue cycle routes have attracted many tourists, with bike paths winding past châteaux, vineyards and along waterways. Burgundy wines have four classifications, starting at Bourgogne, which sources grapes from across Burgundy. As the quality ascends, the region being referred to gets more specific (such as Côtes de Beaune).

Also included in the region is Chablis in the north of Burgundy.

Burgundy is well known for chardonnay and pinot noir and is considered the best climate to produce these grapes. An interesting fact about Burgundy’s terroir is that many millions of years ago, the region was actually engulfed in a shallow sea. The fossilisation of the sea creatures (and their calcium-rich shells) contributes to the terroir’s limestone and marl.

Bordeaux

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bordeaux is often considered the best French region for cycling. The Dordogne River’s winding banks are a very popular ride, as is around Castillon-la-Bataille, the site of the final battle of the Hundred Year War.

Red wine lovers know that Bordeaux is the birthplace of some of the world’s finest wines. These wines are famous for their notes of soft fruit; like blackcurrant and plum. The Gironde River runs through the middle of Bordeaux, dividing the region in two. The Left Bank, including Médoc and Graves, is known for its cabernet sauvignon blends. To the east, the Right Bank includes the appellations of Saint Emilion, which has made its name on merlot blends.

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is home to a famous 800km bike trail through France’s Valley of the Kings, called La Loire à Vélo. It was developed in 1995 as an eco-friendly way bike riders could visit historic villages and vineyards along the Loire River, without ruining the scenery. (You'll also find signposted circuits to take you around the most popular wineries along the trail.)

The Loire is actually very diverse in terms of wine styles and geology, which is why it’s split up into three regions: Lower Loire, Middle Loire and Upper Loire. The first is known for citrusy white wines like pinot gris, the second produces flavoursome reds such as malbec and gamay. Outside of Champagne itself, the Loire Valley is one of the giants of sparkling wines. Upper Loire is the smallest region and produces sauvignon blanc that is emulated throughout the world.

Provence

Provence’s bike trails are popular tourist destinations, particularly along the Rhone River and through old gothic villages, like Les Baux. There are many spectator historical sites in Provence, such as the 2,000 year old Roman bridge, Pont Julien, that you can still ride across.

Provence is loved for its red and white wines, but is especially renowned for its rosé. In fact, it is responsible for 89 per cent of the region’s output. As popularity of rosé grew, Provence became the benchmark for quality – last year, global exports from the region increased by a huge 23 per cent in volume.

Côtes du Rhône

Mont Ventoux is something of a Holy Grail for dedicated cyclists. Besides from vineyards, it boasts beautiful orchards, lavender fields and scenic rivers. It’s also rich with history – featuring both Roman ruins and medieval villages.

Wine from Côtes du Rhône can be made from up to 13 varieties including grenache, syrah and movedre. Much like other French regions Côtes du Rhône has a number of designations, such as Côte Rotie, Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. The vineyards themselves run for more than 200 kilometres.

Want to recreate at home? Here our recommendations of French wine this month:

Rhone: Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone 750mL

Burgundy: Henri Bourgogne Rouge 750mL or Cave de Lugny Bourgogne Blanc 750mL

Bordeaux: Mouton Cadet Vintage Edition 750mL

Provence: Manon Cotes De Provence Rose 750mL

Loire: La Promesse Loire Sauvignon Blanc

Côtes du Rhône: Enclave des Papes Côtes du Rhône, Rhône Valley France

Want to know a little more about French wine? Visit your local Vintage Cellars this month for some more recommendations.