The Wine Cellar: Marathon runners, watchers can enjoy wine pre-race
Down in Louisville, the first weekend in May means just one thing — the Kentucky Derby horse race. But here in the ‘Burgh, this weekend brings another big race — the Pittsburgh Marathon, a tradition that began in 1985.
If you’ve trained hard for either the full marathon or the half, you undoubtedly understand the importance of serious “carb loading” in advance. Acknowledged authorities such as Runner’s World magazine online recommend wolfing down the likes of pasta with red sauce, baked potatoes with salsa, and chicken burritos with rice, corn salsa and black beans.
The goal: Consume 4 grams of carbohydrates per each of pound of body weight, especially the night before the race. The process loads up the body’s glycogen, an easily accessible form of energy that allows runners to avoid “hitting the wall” of exhaustion at the critical 20-mile marker.
But how about including a glass of vino? A glass of dry red or white table wine typically has almost no carbohydrates. A glass of sweet wine delivers only about 4 grams.
A question of dehydration arises. The alcohol in wine can reduce body fluids up to 4 hours after consumption, and runners certainly want to stay properly hydrated, especially during races taking place in hot weather.
Nonetheless, it is perhaps not surprising such considerations do little to deter wine-loving French runners from imbibing even during the race itself. The Marathon du Médoc, which organizers dub “Le Marathon le Plus Long du Monde” (The Longest Marathon in the World), stretches over three days of fun festivities in September.
The race weaves through Bordeaux’s famed “Left Bank” on Sept. 12. Aid stations along the route offer runners red and white wine, as well as plain old water. Many participants dress in zany, often skimpy, costumes while fully embracing the race’s motto of “Health, Sport, Conviviality and Fun.”
So, what’s a Pittsburgh marathon runner to do? Most experts agree that enjoying a single glass of wine with a carbohydrate-laden meal the night before a race will actually help more than hurt. The wine’s dehydrating effects dissipate with a good night’s rest, which a hearty meal and glass of wine help to induce. Just drink plenty of fluids the morning of the race along with consuming bananas, high-carb sports drinks and oatmeal.
Of course, truth be told, most of us will not participate in the marathon. So let’s cheer on the intrepid harriers while carbing up on good food and reasonably priced, quality wines such as the following:
The 2013 La Vieille Ferme Blanc Vin de France, France (3445; on sale, $7.99) comes from vineyards surrounding Mt. Ventoux in Provence. The region’s arid, rolling terrain and the mountain’s sheer climb give runners and bikers tremendous challenges amidst breathtaking, lavender-scented landscapes.
The wine uses bourboulenc, grenache blanc, ugni blanc and vermentino grapes for a perfect blend of fruit and freshness. Ninety percent is fermented in stainless-steel tanks to preserve freshness, while the remaining 10 percent is fermented in oak barrels to add richness and creaminess along with complex aromas.
Aromas of peaches and honeysuckle open to ripe peach and melon flavors with light citrus and toast notes. Fresh acidity frames the fruity, yet dry, finish, Pair it with pasta primavera. Highly recommended.
The 2013 Elena Walch Lagrein, Alto Aidge, Italy (43617; $15.99) comes from vineyards near Italy’s northern most, alpine border with Austria. An architect by training, talented winery owner Elena Walch and her two daughters consistently offer elegant, terroir-driven wines that have helped put Alto Adige on the international wine-consuming map.
In this case, around Lake Caldaro and the village of Tramin, the lagrein grapes ripen perfectly on gently rolling valleys that also offer a picturesque paradise for hikers, bikers and runners. Fermentation in stainless steel captures the fruit’s innate traits, while aging in large, French-oak barrels adds refinement.
The wine’s neon-purple color offers black-cherry, plum and violet aromas. Rich, ripe plum, blackberry and brown-spice flavors balance with firm tannins and zesty acidity. Pair it with pastas with red sauce, the ultimate “carbo load.” Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media.