What to drink…
Perhaps one reason why the vineyards of Auvergne are so little known is their location, hidden away right in the centre of France. In fact, the most famous liquid export of the area is probably the mineral water Volvic.
As that name suggests, ancient volcanoes dominate the horizon here, and the billowing landscape is formed from lava that flowed from eruptions many thousands of years ago. These basalt soils are considered especially favourable for red varieties, which account for something like 90% of plantings.
In total, there are only a few thousand hectares of vines in the Auvergne, mostly planted in the Puy-de-Dôme département. Chardonnay is the main white variety, but it is the reds made from Gamay and Pinot Noir that are most
Cave Saint-Verny, Les Volcans Gamay/ Pinot Noir 2014 Côtes d’Auvergne (£9 Bottle Apostle, £9.25 H2Vin, £9.99, The VineKing) These two grape varieties are very en vogue these days, because they make light, refreshing styles of red. It’s a 50-50 blend, but Gamay flavours dominate, giving the same lightness and crunch that you find in good Beaujolais. The crispness and furry texture reminds me of cranberry juice. A quintessential quaffer! noteworthy. These tend to be light-bodied, fragrant and usually fairly low in alcohol.
The main classification for the region’s wines is IGP Puy-de-Dôme. That stands for Indication Géographique Protégée, the term which has been gradually replacing Vin de Pays since 2008. Contained within the IGP boundaries is the small appellation Côtes d’Auvergne. Both are equally capable of producing very good quality wine – often at great-value prices.
The local co-operative cellar is called Caves Saint-Verny, and they are the largest producer in the region. Thankfully, they are a superb operation. I’ve recommended three of their best reds below, and you can also find their wines at Majestic and The Wine Society in the UK, and online from saint-verny.com in France.
Cave Saint-Verny, Pinot Noir 2014 IGP Puy-de-Dôme (£9.95 Lea & Sandeman, £11 The Sampler) Classic Pinot Noir through and through: pale ruby colour, delicious strawberry fruit and a hint of spice, with light body and good persistence. Producing authentic, flavoursome Pinot Noir at this sort of price is nothing short of miraculous. Try drinking it lightly chilled for a glass of summery bliss!
Cave Saint-Verny, Les Volcans Syrah 2011 IGP Puy-de-Dôme (£10.95 WineTrust100.co.uk, £11.99 Bentleys Wine) Getting Syrah to full ripeness is apparently quite a challenge in this climate, but the 2011 vintage is triumphant. There’s sumptuous blackberry fruit plus a charming herbal character – superb depth of flavour for the price. With its light body and easydrinking softness, this is one of the bargains of the year.