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Drinking the Stars

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom PerignonIt has been said that on August 4, in 1693 the legendary winemaking monk, Dom Perignon, invented the ethereal potable known as champagne.  The legend states that after accidentally discovering the sparkling wine, he called after his fellow friars, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”

While these details make for a delightful story, most evidence suggests that it was the British who actually developed champagne.  Reportedly, due to global cooling in the 17th century, the British were forced to import wines in order to enjoy them at home, and apparently the English had a preference for the pale, crisp wines that were produced in the Champagne region of France.  After the French white wine made it to England, some experimental connoisseurs added a bit of sugar directly into the bottles to spark a second fermentation.  Let it sit for a few months and, Voila! We have champagne.  This new, bubbly French wine is referenced in British history a few years before Perignon’s supposed discovery, pretty much locking Dom out of the race.

Making matters more interesting, there is an account that dates bubbly’s discovery back to 1531 by monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire.  Still wines were produced in this region as far back as Roman occupation, but the famed Blanquette de Limoux, is supposedly the very first sparkling wine the world had seen.  However, true champagne must have originated in Champagne, backing Britain’s claim to its discovery.

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom Perignon, The Wine Route

Upon careful consideration, it’s relatively safe to conclude that it was not, in fact, Dom Perignon who discovered the beverage in question.  The fabrication of his contribution to the wine world likely stemmed from a successor’s exaggerated biography, which credited the well-known monk with many embellished achievements.  However, Dom does deserve a bit of recognition as he certainly did have a healthy impact upon wine making.  He was apparently a very insightful cellar master who developed a progressive technique for grape pressing and blending, as well as a way to keep a cork in a pressure-filled bottle of champagne.

Whether champagne originated in Great Britain, or Dom Perignon’s cellar, most of us simply take comfort in the fact that it exists.  Our exciting vacations in France offer a taste of some of the best wines in the world, sparkling and still.  Join us as we cycle through stunning wine regions and sample the stars on our LoireValley, Bicycling Bordeaux and the River Dordogne, or Burgundy: The Wine Route vacations.  Salut!

Tour de France

The 98th Tour de France came to a close this past weekend as the competition had reached fever pitch.  Despite the much hyped matchup between Alberto Contador, winner of the past two TdF’s, and Andy Schleck, runner-up in past years of the Tour, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler looked to be the man to beat for the Yellow Jersey at the start of stage 19.

This year’s Tour was markedly turbulent early on.  The first 9 stages saw a number of alarming crashes resulting in some very serious injuries.  However, calamity had steadily dissipated as the competition rose.

The leader board in this year’s event featured several surprise contenders for the GC competition for the overall best time, adding even more excitement to cycling’s most celebrated tour.  Thomas Voeckler remained in contention for the Yellow Jersey much longer than most had expected.  Fans also saw a second place appearance by Andy’s brother, Frank Schleck.  Frank gave up his second place spot to his brother, but he remained close to the top, as he finished in third, two and a half minutes behind the Australian leader, Cadel Evans.

By the end of stage 19 on Friday, both Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans of Australia managed to overtake Voeckler, with Evans in first and Schleck following in second.  Alberto Contador made several surprise moves uphill over the course of the Tour, but managed to finish no higher than fifth place in the competition for the Yellow Jersey.

With no shortage of twists and turns, this year’s Tour de France certainly delivered the intense competition that the race is known for.  Congratulations to Cadel Evans who took the GC competition, Samuel Sanchez who won King of the Mountains, Mark Cavendish who took the Sprinter’s Green Jersey, Pierre Rolland who was this year’s best young rider, and Team Garmin-Cervelo who won the team competition.

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