With the Tour de France around the corner, cycling fans are prepared for the daily ritual of watching the race unfold. Although few can go ride Alpe d’Huez for a firsthand taste of the Tour, you could experience the culture of the town and country that the riders speed through every day.
This year, former pro cyclist and 2008 Tour de France competitor Will Frischkorn, owner of Cured, a Colorado cheese, wine, charcuterie, and provisions shop, offers Tour fans the “Cured de France,” a detailed guide to how you can salute this year’s Tour in style.
“We have put together a Tour of our own, one that is a bit more accessible to the mere mortal,” Frischkorn said. “All you need to take part is a love of cheese, a passion for French wine, and a good appetite. 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.”
For each stage of the Tour, Frischkorn suggests cheeses and beverages — mostly wine — that come from the region in which the cyclists are racing. All of Frischkorn’s primary suggestions can be found at good cheese and wine shops. He also offers more widely available alternatives that at least capture the culinary spirit of each stage. Either way, Cured also sells all of the cheeses at his store and its website.
In a counter-clockwise loop, the peloton travels down the northwestern coast of France, all the way into the heart of Brittany before the riders hop on a plane and head south.
A traditional rest day in Pau, the culinary heart of Southwestern France, gives the riders strength to attack a brutal couple of days in the Pyrenees and the forgotten mountains of the Massif Central. There is one flat day for the sprinters as they head down the Rhône River, and then it’s right back into the mountains, this time the Alps.
With the penultimate stage finishing on one of the Tour’s most iconic climbs, Alpe d’Huez, the race then flies up to Paris for the final show on the Champs-Élysées.
Here is Frischkorn’s guide to the Tour:
July 4-6: Holland and Belgium
We kick off our Tour with a beer from legendary Belgian Brewery Achouffe, La Chouffe, a strong Belgian ale. We’re pairing it with Wilde Wilde, a 15-month aged Gouda from a small, organic, family-owned farm.
More commonly available: Good aged Gouda and a quality Belgian ale should not be hard to find in most areas.
July 7-9: Northwestern France
The far northwest of France is cold and harsh, brutal for both cyclists and wine. That said, this area is known for its apple brandy called Calvados. We’ll try a bottle of Calvados Notre Dame paired with a small-production Livarot, a soft, pungent cheese seemingly made to be enjoyed with a sip of brandy after dinner.
More commonly available: While our calvados is a specific apple brandy, there are many others from which to choose. On the cheese front, keep your eyes peeled for Normandy Camembert.
July 10-12: Brittany
As we head farther west, the Tour enters Muscadet country. Made from the Melon grape and practically designed to pair with oysters, Muscadet is one of our favorite summer wines due to its versatility and crisp, refreshing zip. It cuts through food like few other wines, and what better food to cut through than butter from legendary producer Rodolphe le Meunier? His Beurre de Baratte is made from fresh cream, and is hand-molded and sprinkled with a pinch of sea salt from miles away. What a treat.
More commonly available: Muscadet is available at most fine wine shops, and ask your local grocer for a good French butter — it likely comes from this region.
July 13-16: Southwestern France and the Pyrenees
Southwestern France is a culinary mecca. It’s harsh country, with stunning mountains, remote villages, and epic roads for riding a bike. We’re showcasing this part of the world with Camin Larreyda’s Jurancon Sec, a textbook example of some of the wines made from hearty, indigenous grapes in the region. For cheese, we’re highlighting a relatively new cheese: Bleu de Basques from the Berria de Onetik coop. An 80-day aged blue from sheep’s milk, this has already won a gold medal from the French Concours General Agricole.
More commonly available: While finding wines from this region can be tricky, it’s well worth it. Look for Petit Basque or other sheep’s milk cheeses from this region at your local specialty grocer.
July 17-19: The Massif Central
This region in the center of France is often overlooked, but much like the Appalachian and Great Smoky Mountains of the East Coast, it is a stunning, rough-and-tumble part of the country with incredible resources. On the western side lies Cahors, the homeland of Malbec, and we will taste one of the finest from Chaeau la Caminade. The Auvergne region is known for its cheese, and one of the best, Puits d’Astier from Rudolphe le Muenier, is headed our way. Donut-shaped and aged on a bed of hay, the Puits d’Astier is an exceptionally special treat.
More commonly available: Cahors is a region most wine shops will be familiar with, and Bleu d’Auvergne is a delicious and widely available example of cheese from this area.
July 20-23: The Rhone-Alps
As the race heads down the Rhone and into Provence, it’s hard not to think of rosé. We’re showcasing one of our favorites, the Premiere from Saint Andre de Figuiere. Largely Mourvedre, this powerfully structured Provencal rosé is a favorite of ours at Cured and tailor-made for cheese. Interestingly enough, most of the exceptional cheese made in Provence is consumed there; what we get from the region here in the United States is less than exciting. As such, we’ve chosen to highlight a cheese made in Oregon but inspired by Provence: Rivers Edge Chevre’s Siltcoos. An ash-ripened round with fern leaves on top, Siltcoos is one of the finest goat’s milk cheeses in the world.
More commonly available: Ask for French rosé, and there’s a good chance it’s from this part of the country. We encourage you to ask your cheese monger for a great American example of lightly ripened goat’s milk to try.
July 24-25: The Alps
The classic picture of high alpine racing seems to always have a cow grazing in a perfect green pasture as the cyclists fly by. It seems that in the summer, every nook and cranny of the Alps is filled with animals heading to the high country in their annual transhumance, and as cheese enthusiasts we’re all the luckier for it. We’ll be tasting Jeune Autize from Rodolphe le Meunier, a new French cheese from a legendary producer that is similar to Morbier but made from goat’s milk. The wines of the Alps are delicate, fresh, and elegant, and we’ll be enjoying a bottle of Eugene Carrel’s Jongieux Rouge, a Mondeuse-based red that could be one of the best cheese pairing reds we’ve ever tasted.
More commonly available: While Savoie reds aren’t on shelves everywhere, do try and hunt one down. For cheese, try a Beaufort or Tomme de Savoie, two cheeses available in most markets.
July 26: Paris
There are few pairings more celebratory than Brie and Bubbles, and we’re picking two of the finest to cap off our culinary tour de force. Fougerus is named for the fern that graces the top of this gorgeous cheese from just south of Paris. Champagne Moutard is a small, family-owned bubbles house and their Grande Cuvee, made from 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes, could not be a more perfect close to our three-week adventure.
More commonly available: For Brie and Champagne, you can find an example of each almost anywhere.
The Cured de France is available for $40 a stage, with shipping available for the full Tour in three bundles for $90 within Colorado.