What to drink…

Living France - - À La Maison -

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.

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