Margaret and Dick   


October '06: 45 miles... 7 wineries... no drunks

Why party after the wine harvest?  Dios o vol!

We couldn't resist sharing this story by our friend and Limoux neighbor Neil Rosen.  The story was originally published on the website Edge of the Road.  Photos and story by Neil Rosen, reprinted by permission.

The last paid ride of the year in the Aude Department of France is always the last Saturday in October. It’s called the Randonnee des Vins Primeurs — Ride of the first wines of the year.

The town where the ride originates from is Lezignan, in the heart of the Corbieres and Minervois wine-growing region of southwest France not far from Spain and Barcelona.

My biking buddy, Jean-Claude Garcia, explained that after harvesting of grapes – when it was done by hand — vineyard workers were traditionally treated to a large feast. The feast included letting the workers taste the new wines, the Primeurs.

Nobody really knows why or how this tradition started, except that in Catalan, the reason given is DIOS O VOL

“Because God wants it this way!”

We registered in the town square of Lezignan with about 275 other bikers from the various bike clubs in the surrounding area. Everyone received a t-shirt that had no advertising on it.

Over the heart on the front of the shirt was simply written Lezignan, Randonnee des Vins Primeurs 2006. On the back in big letters, DIOS O VOL.

Coffee [espresso] was provided. We were divided into four groups of 75 bikers, each group flanked in front by two gendarmes on motorcycles and two more in back. The ride began at 9 a.m. after the mayor of Lezignan made his speech welcoming everyone.

We were led out of town at 15 minute intervals coursing through the countryside of vineyards all in various colors of green, rust, yellow, red and brown. We coursed through quaint primitive towns that paralleled the Canal de Midi, a boat canal connecting the Mediterranean Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. Truly charming and picturesque. We were in the first group of 75. Jean-Claude and I were with the Limoux Cycling Club who, interestingly, have the same colors as the Fort Worth Bicycling Association — red, white, and black.

After one hour of biking, we came to our first stop. This a private winery where tables of sandwiches and primeur wines were lavished upon us. Jean–Claude explained that if one likes the various wines, one could buy any amount they wish and it will be brought back to Lezignan by the sag truck.

When the fourth group arrived, we were off to the next winery flanked by our gendarmes. This was after another half hour of biking and again we were feted with the primeur wines and food. At 11 a.m. I had drunk more wine than I have ever done in an evening.

After the fourth group arrived, we were off to the third winery. We arrived around noon in the town of Tourouzelle. The entire parking lot of the vineyard was laid out with tables like a cafeteria. Each table had baguettes, water, and, oh, yes, the red and white primeurs. After group four arrived we were treated to bar-b-q pork chops, sausage, pate, salad, desert and café. We were entertained by speeches from the various vintners and ride organizers. When they discovered that an American was amongst them, they quickly reported that this Tour, after eight years in existence, is now International! Lunch lasted the usual 3 to 4 hours….and it was hot, as the Mediterranean sun raised the temperature into the mid- and high- 80s.

Well, we eventually had to get back on our bikes to visit the next three wineries and vineyards to taste their primeurs! At two of these, Charles Clos and Camplong, the wine was so good that Jean-Claude and I bought some.

We then ended up en masse in Lezignan at the last winery, a co-op, where of course, after the usual tasting, we biked back to the town square. Here we were greeted by a brass band and roasted chestnuts. We were then gifted with another t-shirt [different from the first] and a choice of a free bottle of primeur wine from ALL the bottles we tasted that day. Jean-Claude and I picked up the wine we had purchased and carefully made our way back home, a forty-five minute drive by car.

Throughout that day no one was drunk; there were no wrecks or mishaps; no one got crazy. The gendarmes did excellent traffic control guiding traffic around the columns of bikers without a glitch. The organization was impeccable. I drank more than I can remember.

We biked a total of 90 KMS [45 miles] at an average speed of 22Kms/hr or 13 mph through some of the prettiest and colorful country-side dotted with charming medieval villages. We ended up with two t-shirts apiece, lots of food and wine. The cost? 5 yep that’s FIVE euros or $6.50 US per person!

And why? Because DIOS O VOL !

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On to 2007:  The perfect hamburger