The Tour Skirts Loire – The Tour Part 1
This year’s Tour de France began with a couple of upsets. Beginning just 56 km south of Nantes in Loire, the Tour forwent the traditional prologue for a windblown skirt of the west coast that ended up exposing most everyone’s favorite to a undesirable finish.
Beginning in Passage du Gois, the route hugged the Bay of Biscay before u-turning north towards the Loire Valley near the finish line. With the cloud of last year’s positive drug test on one shoulder and a fiery desire to sport yellow on the other, Alberto Contador went down with approximately 177 other riders, in a crash that occurred just 9 km short of the finish. It’s a story that we’re all familiar with–the big shots don’t always take the win at the Tour. Just ask Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto, who won the first stage by crossing the line 1:20 ahead of Contador the Contender.
Starting a little further south, in the direction of Bordeaux, Stage 2 began with the 23 km Team Time Trial, a flat route that delivered an expected win to the American team, Garmin-Cervélo. I’m a big fan of the TTT, it’s such a beautiful event. Elegant and full of grace, the TTT requires precision in the stitching of seamless teamwork. Racing against the clock, only the Individual Time Trial bares the strength of a rider more, the ITT much like Vouvray’s Chenin Blanc–a vehicle through which the rider can showcase his power, like the grape that’s a palate through which the winemaker can express his terroir.
Just 500 km northeast of the start of Stage 3, resides Vincent Raimbault, the owner of 16 ha of sustainable vineyards. Following three generations of family footsteps that were first planted in 1904, Raimbault tends his vines in the town of Chancay in a Leiut Dit called Bel Air. Some of the best vineyards in Vouvray, Raimbault’s are situated between two rivers, the Brenne and the Loire, and lucky us, his wines are currently in stock. Considered by many to be a top site or a Grand Cru vineyard, because it grows atop a meager layer of flinty top soil, Raimbault’s 60 year old Chenin Blanc vines have immediate access to the chalk that sits below.
Perhaps not one of the region’s most famous producers, Raimbault, like Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Cérvelo, sits beneath the radar, positioned to take the world by surprise. Much like the winner of Stage 3, who crossed the line with a little help from his yellow jerseyed teammate, Thor Hushovd, Raimbault is a vintner riding on the wheel of history, which in the world of winemaking is always an awesome leadout.