Riding in the Tour de France is a noble and immensely demanding pursuit. But for some of us, combing the hills of France for sport conjures images of competitive wine tasting rather than bicycles and spandex. A wine-lover’s version of a “tour de France” makes stops for farmers markets, restaurants housed in 17th century estates, and renowned wineries. And while this tour may follow a similar route to the cyclists’, from the northwest near Mûr-de-Bretagne, south through Provence, and rounding out near Paris, it stops for wine, not water. With ten stages, compared to the official Tour’s 21, wine-lover’s will crisscross the cyclists’ run — at the time of publication, they’re powering through stage ten from Saint-Flour. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/rAdAdA)
Stage 1: Quimper
Known best for its cider, rather than wine, Quimper is in the region of Brittany on the northwestern coast. Visit the storied Ciderie Manoir du Kinkiz where you can learn about their production of cider, taste some straight from the source, and tour their idyllic grounds. During Stage 5, the cyclists were working overtime in nearby Carhaix, one of the oldest cities in western France.
Stage 2: Chinon
In Stage 7, the cyclists traveled from Le Mans to Chateauroux, which inspired this pit-stop in Chinon at Baudry-Dutour’s vineyards and cellars. The Coteau de Sonnay cellar, carved from native tuffeau stone, is situated along the Chinon wine route. Find dinner (and a perfect wine pairing) at the Auberge du Val de Vienne, also along the route.
Stage 3: St. Estephe
Traveling from Chinon to St. Estephe should be simple, provided you’re not biking. While Mark Cavendish and Sebastien Hinault were battling from Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy in Stage 8, we were dreaming of visiting Chateau Haut-Marbuzet in nearby (and well-known Medoc growing region) St. Estephe to sample their vintages. Drinking their wines means learning about the process of production and touring the stunning, immense grounds with owner and wine maker Henri Duboscq and his sons.
Stage 4: Mercues
Instead of beginning the eastern arc so soon, stay in Bordeaux with a quick stop in Mercues. Stage 10 sees the cyclists pass by the famous clock tower of Saint-Flour, but you’ll be passing through the intimate cellar of Chateau de Mercues. Book a room in the hotel, find a table at the estate’s restaurant, and don’t miss their award-winning Malbec. Visit them during harvest, take a course on pairings, and learn about such gastronomic delights as truffles and saffron on site. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Andrealighting)
Stage 5: Lorgues
The cyclists will struggle from Limoux to Montpelier. Stop in Limoux between January and March to take part in their three-month long carnival or skip ahead toward Provence for a wine-soaked tour at Chateau de Berne. Tours are as process-intensive as you’d like with some going from vine to glass and others focusing more on glass alone. Stay in the hotel, take a cooking course, and grab a bite in the property’s restaurant — this is one stop the cyclists should perhaps plan to make once the Tour is done.