France’s best Tour in years + Radford Dale (SA)

2019 route

Although overall victory escaped a Frenchman for the 34th successive year since Bernard Hinault took the last of his five Tour de France victories in 1985, the rider who added most sparkle and panache to the race was Julian Alaphilippe. Appropriately he first took the Yellow Jersey at the finish of  the third stage in Epernay.

Although the 2019 route ignored Bordeaux and the Loire, it did visit a good number of France’s wine regions in addition to Champagne. Among those the riders passed through were Alsace, the Mâconnais, Pouilly-Fuissé, Beaujolais, Gaillac, Jurançon, Limoux, Costières de Nîmes, Lirac, Tavel and the Côtes du Rhône.

Until the race reached the Alps in the third week for the final mountain stages it looked as though Alaphilippe might hold the jersey to Paris or if it wasn’t to be him Thibaut Pinot. Sadly those hopes were dashed on Vendredi Noir (le 26 juillet) when first Pinot was forced to abandon with a muscle injury and then the severity of the Col de l’Iseran, especially its altitude at 2770 metres, cracked Alaphilippe allowing 22-year-old Egan Bernal to grab Yellow. Given that the Alpine stages featured five cols of over 2000 metres it is probably not surprising that this edition has led to the first Columbian winning the Tour de France. Bernal was brought up at 2,650 metres, so climbing the Iseran was like being at home.  The previous day on the Galibier another Columbian – Nairo Quintana – had shown a flash of his old brilliance. 

It was very fitting that Alaphilippe was given the Super-Combativité Award for the Tour and so had his moment on the podium in Paris.

Youngest winners

10 youngest winners of the Tour

Much has been made of Bernal’s youth – 22 years and 196 days old – when he confirmed his win in Paris. He is the third youngest winner of Le Tour in its 106 edition. Officially the youngest winner is Henri Cornet at 19 years and 352 days declared winner of the 1904 and second edition of the Tour. However, Cornet actually finished fifth but was elevated as the four riders who finished in front of him. Instead François Faber is the youngest rider to actually finish first in 1909 edition aged 22 years 187 days, so Bernal can be considered the second youngest real winner of the Tour.

‘During the race, nine riders were excluded because of, among other actions, illegal use of cars or trains. The Tour organisers were happy with the result, but the Union Vélocipédique Française (UVF) started an investigation after complaints from other cyclists. Their investigative committee heard testimony from dozens of competitors and witnesses, and, in December 1904, disqualified all the stage winners and the first four finishers (Maurice Garin, Pothier, César Garin, and Aucouturier). Ten of those disqualified were banned for one year, Maurice Garin for two years and the remaining two for life.[1] In total, 29 riders were punished.[4] The reasons for the disqualification were never made public.[23]

Fifth-placed Henri Cornet, aged 19, then became the youngest ever winner of the Tour.[24] Cornet had also been warned after he had received a lift by a car.[4] Only 15 cyclists from the original 27 that finished were not disqualified.[25]’
Wikipedia 1904 Tour de France   

It is interesting to see (above) that there have been six other winners who were just 22 years old including Felice Gimondi and Laurent Fignon, while the great Eddy Merckx didn’t win his first Tour de France until he was 24 years old.

At the other end of the age scale Firmin Lambot, who won the 1922 edition, remains the oldest to have won – 36 years and 130 days. In modern times Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner, is the oldest at 34 years and 160 days. Only two other riders have won who have past their 34th birthdays. Apart from Lambot no rider has won having already celebrated their 35th birthday, which suggests that even if Chris Froome fully recovers from his serious crash in June, he may well not win a 5th Tour de France.

Can France provide a winner in 2020 or are the South Americans set to rule ……..



Radford Dale impresses 




On Friday night we were back at the wonderful 10 Cases in London’s Covent Garden – see earlier post here. Spotting Radford Dale’s 2015 Nudity Syrah on the wine list I persuaded my two companions to give it a try as I had been so taken with their Chenin Blancs at Angers. The 2015 Nudity turned out to be a very good choice with lovely bright berry fruit and excellent freshness in the finish from being just 12.5% alcohol. We thought in a blind tasting it would easily pass as a Northern Rhône.

Two Chenin Blancs from the South African producer Radford Dale were amongst the wines that most impressed at the First Chenin Blanc Congress in Angers at the beginning of July. The two wines were the 2017 The Renaissance of Chenin and the 2018 Vinum.

Here are the notes I wrote for a Decanter article following the Congress.

‘2017 The Renaissance of Chenin, Radford Dale
Of the 15 South African wines I have picked out Radford Dale is the only estate that is run organically. In contrast all the Loire wines are either from organic or biodynamic domaines or in conversion to organic status. The vines for Renaissance are planted on granite and are aged between 6 and 37 years old. The grapes were picked by hand with a yield of hl/ha. The 2017 has opulent nose and is richly textured with good concentration of ripe fruit along with vibrant acidity in the long finish. This is a lovely wine with good potential to age.

2018 Vinum Radford Dale
Based in Stellenbosch and convinced of the variety’s greatness Radford Dale has been a champion of quality Chenin Blanc from cool sites since the late 1990s. Planted on granite the vines are 40 years old and are almost entirely bush vines. The grapes were picked by hand. Mid-lemon in colour the 2018 with mouth filling ripe apricot fruit, good weight, a seductive texture but also finesse that comes from the restrained level of alcohol completed by good vibrant length.’ The only bum note was the unnecessary weight of the bottle from a producer that prides themselves on ‘sustainability’ ………..

(Many apologies due to an attack of incompetence on my part this post was scheduled some 24 hours earlier than it should have been. Unfortunately I can offer no guarantee that incompetence will not strike again……….. Jim )



Monsieur Discretion

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