I did not grow up watching a lot of television. This isn't because my family had any real objection to television; I think it had more to do with the fact that my mom is German and hadn't watched TV growing up and also that we were always busy running around doing something outside.
Of course, there were exceptions: We watched cartoons on Saturday mornings (Thunder Cats!) and, when I was in high school, we sometimes stayed up to catch George Clooney on ER (although mostly, due to the fact that I had swim practice at 5 a.m., I fell asleep about 10 minutes into the program).
The biggest exception to the rule, however, was the Tour de France. I can't remember exactly when or why or how it became a Thing That We Did, but every July, we'd tune in to watch. The dulcet tones of Phil Liggett, year after year of Miguel Indurain in the yellow jersey, and, of course, Lance Armstrong, defined my TV-watching experience.
Although I'm less religious about watching now that I don't live at home, it's an event that I still get excited about. You can't help but catch a little bit of the energy that comes from a race that's a feat of extreme athleticism. And while being a fitness fanatic may enhance your appreciation of this three-week-long event, you do not need anything more than a good appetite to enjoy being a spectator. I'd argue that the best way to spectate is with foods strictly off-limits to the riders: cheese and wine, which are two things that France happens to do very, very well.
We tapped Will Frischkorn, a former Tour de France competitor and now the owner of Boulder-based wine & cheese shop Cured, to figure out what to eat and drink during the next month. As the cyclists make their way around France, so do we — only our trip is a bit more pleasing to the palate and less punishing to the legs.
A Tour de France Cyclist's Guide to What to Eat & Drink
A Brief Overview
This year's Tour began in Germany, but it really started yesterday. While we were grilling hot dogs and burgers and making flag cake, the race crossed back into its home country.
The route heads across the rolling hills of Northeastern France, into the true heart of Burgundy on the 7th. Needless to say, there will be some Burgundy and seriously guilty triple crème cheese in our future.
A couple of brutal days in the Savoie region give us the opportunity to enjoy our Burgundy before the riders hop a flight west towards Bordeaux, where we quickly find ourselves immersed in another famed part of the wine world.
Next, the riders head across the Pyrenees, through some of the world's finest blue cheese country, and touching on Cahors, the region where the Malbec grape first made its name and truly calls home.
From there, the route crosses through the Northern Rhone Valley, straight up into the hills of the Savoie, before a quick day in the Provencal sun.
The riders hop a flight to Paris for their final stage and we get to enjoy our traditional bottle of bubbly and brie to cap off the successful completion of our adventure.
Since the first stage of the Tour de France is already over, we're jumping right in with the second stage.
Stage 2: Stinky Cheese + Rosé
Eat: The classic Burgundian washed-rind Trou du Cru is a rich, umami-laden nugget of joy. If your local cheesemonger doesn't stock it, opt for the similarly stinky epoisses.
Drink: Domaine Lelievre's edgy, nervy, Gris de Toul Rosé is made as far north as any in western Europe and the racy acidity comes through in a way that just screams for food. Fortunately you'll be well-equipped. If you're shopping locally, ask your wine store for a high-acid rosé.
Stage 3: Triple Cream + Chardonnay
Eat: The Demi-Brillat Saverin triple crème cheese is perfectly luscious and creamy.
Drink: Paul Pernot's opulent 2015 Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay seems only appropriate. It has even more generosity than normal due to the warm and relatively easy vintage, pleasing lovers of Burgundy and California Chardonnay alike.
Stage 4: Aged Sheep Milk + Merlot
Eat: Rodolphe le Munier is a famed affineur who ages cheeses from all over France in his caves. His sheep milk tomme brûlée is unlike any sheep's milk cheese in its refinement.
Drink: Chateau Couronneau is one of the few Biodynamic wineries in Bordeaux and their Merlot dominant Bordeaux Rouge is an example of the incredible values that Bordeaux can offer when you hunt for them.
Stage 5: Blue Cheese + Malbec
Eat: The one blue cheese in this year's tour is bleu de bergers. It's a fantastic Pyreneean sheep's milk blue. It's slightly friendlier and more delicate than Roquefort — although this more common cheese makes a good substitute.
Drink: Château Combel La Serre's Cahors is Malbec from France, its original home, and delivers incredible freshness and energy — a perfect summer red without the typical tannic grip many associate with the grape.
Stage 6: Goat Cheese + Beaujolais
Eat: From time to time there is a region whose cheeses we just can't get here in the states in good condition, but you can find a French-style goat milk cheese that is just as good: St. Albans from Vermont Butter and Cheese.
Drink: Thillardon's stunningly elegant Moulin aux Vent Beaujolais has incredible femininity and grace. You might want two rounds of this stage just to be safe!
Stage 7: Alpine Cheese + Alpine White
Eat: Abbaye de Tamie is a distinctive washed-rind cow's milk cheese made by monks in Savoie. It's funky, in a friendly way. (Also try: Murray's Cornelia).
Drink: Sometimes the age-old adage "drink together what grows together" actually hits the nail square on the head. This is the case with Jean Masson et Fils Apremont Traditionnelle. Think of mountain flowers and minerality captured in a bottle, and then think about finding another cold bottle of it quickly.
Stage 8: Brie + Champagne
Eat: Any brie will do, but if you want to opt for something try special, Fougerus could be one of the most elegant wheels you'll ever drop on your table.
Drink: Champagne Sanger 360 is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Munier, with fruit coming from 42 villages of Champagne.
In 2017 the Cured de France is $50 a stage, with a discounted bundle of $350 for the entire tour. Shipping is available within Colorado for a flat fee of $90 for whole tour purchases. Bundles of two to three stages at a time will be shipped for arrival on the 1st, 11th, and 18th.