A traditional way of opening sparkling wine – just as Cav puts the others to the sword!
Yet another stunning victory for Mark Cavendish on the final stage of the 2010 Tour de France as he roared up the Champs de l’Elysée leaving the opposition behind for dust. Cavendish – often known as the Manx Missile as he comes from the Isle of Man – added another five stage victories this year taking his overall tally to 15. Cavendish’s emphatic victories in Bordeaux and Paris were achieved without his customary lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, who was thrown out of the Tour for head-butting another rider while travelling at around 60 km/h heading for the line, so helping Mark to win No. 3.
This brings him level with the great Belgian sprinter, Freddy Maertens, who incidentally was and presumably still is a considerable amateur of the wines of Bordeaux. Maertens and Cavendish now tie for 12th place in the list of all time stage winners. Eddy Merckx heads this list with 34 victories. Like Cavendish, Maertens achieved his 15 victories in just three editions of the Tour winning a remarkable eight stages in 1976. As Cavendish is just 25 and on current form, assuming that he doesn’t get seriously injured – always an occupational hazard for a sprint cyclist – then it may not be too far fetched to imagine Cavendish doubling his tally to 30 or more in the seasons to come. After all Petacchi, the veteran Italian sprinter who won the Green Jersey this year, is 36 years old.
In a couple of earlier posts during this year’s Tour I rather dodged the issue of matching Mark Cavendish with a suitable wine. Yesterday’s explosive surge up the Champs de l’Elysée has brought clarity. It has to be Cuvée Merret-Bloomsbury from Ridgeview, a leading producer of English sparkling wine. This cuvée is named after Christopher Merret, who may well have been the true inventor of sparkling wine back in the mid-1700s. I’m aware that the méthode ancestrale existed before this time but this is a little different to a wine that has undergone a secondary fermentation in bottle. Also the pressure is higher.
Merret presented a paper in 1662 to The Royal Society about adding sugar and molasses to wines of all sorts to make them sparkling. This is some 30 years before Dom Pérignon was doing his level best to keep the wines of Champagne still rather than sparkling.
So it would appear that the secret of making sparkling wine, which has over the centuries enriched the economy of the Champagne region, actually was a gift from north of La Manche! Admittedly some of the still wines Merret used to transform into sparkling were imported from Champagne. At that time France apparently did not have the technology to produce bottles that were sufficiently strong to withstand the pressure produced by a secondary fermentation in bottle.
After a decidedly flat start to this year's Tour, Mark Cavendish found some sparkling form. He is just one more stage win behind equalling the legendary five times Tour winner, Jacques Anquetil's 16 stage wins.
Cheers Mark – bien Merreté!