We are among professionals, you may or may not know them … that is why this section will be dedicated to vineyards that are not enough talked about.
For the first issue of our Newsletter, we invite you to explore the Massif Central’s four PDO : Côtes d´Auvergne, Saint-Pourçain, Côte Roannaise and Côtes du Forez.
Despite a centuries-old history dating back to Gallo-Roman times, Auvergne wines have long remained in the shadow of Anjou, Saumurois or Sancerre wines.
However, as in many French regions, a renewal and a dynamic are underway. To match the with the soils of these areas, we could also talk about boiling, gushing or even eruption!
Indeed, the specificity of these four vineyards lies under our feet. According to the different names, the subsoil will be formed of granite rocks, volcanic rocks, marine sediments (marl, limestone, lake limestone), alluvium, metamorphic rocks. To this must be added a semi-continental climate, with cold and dry winters and hot summers, with low rainfall. This exceptional climate is largely due to the Foehn effect: the precipitation coming from the ocean is partly stopped by the western slope of the Massif Central (Puys’ chain) and the air mass which continues its route is then transformed into a hot and dry current when it reaches the vineyard slopes.
Finally, altitude is key. The vines are planted between 200 and 600 meters, this climate offers optimal ripening for the grapes and good resistance to global warming.
As for the grape varieties, Gamay is omnipresent, enriched with its variations: Gamay Bouze Noir, Gamay Fréaux Noir, Gamay Noir with white juice. Pinot noir is also used as a blend.
As for the whites, they come from Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Tressaillier (a local variety cultivated only in Saint-Pourçain), Viognier or Roussanne.
Thus, although they have similarities, the vineyards of Côtes d´Auvergne, Saint-Pourçain, Côte Roannaise and Côtes du Forez offer a whole set of wine styles with a strong personality.
In 1951, the Côtes d´Auvergne were the first to join the appellations of origin. A modification took place during the year 1977 to define the five crus: Côtes d’Auvergne Boudes, Côtes d’Auvergne Chanturgue, Côtes d’Auvergne Chateaugay, Côtes d’Auvergne Madargue and Côtes d’Auvergne Corent (only rosés can be claimed on the latter).
The appellation area stretches for approximately 80 km from North to South and 15 km from East to West and is spread over 53 municipalities. The vines are generally dispersed in a multitude of small islets, almost always on a well-marked hillside, at an altitude of between 350 and 550 m.
The fame and the particularity of the complementary local names (Madargue, Chateaugay, Chanturgue, Corent and Boudes) illustrate the diversity of the soils of the Côtes d´Auvergne vineyard:
- The Madargue site corresponds, in the town of Riom, to a white marly wine-growing hill.
- The vines on Chateaugay are on the sides of an old basalt flow fragmented into several small plateaus.
- The Chanturgue vineyard, emblematic of the Côtes d’Auvergne and whose name of Celtic origin comes from the word “cantalo” meaning “brilliant” and “clearly visible”, occupies the steep slopes (more than 25%) bordering the basalt plateau.
- The name of Corent derives its notoriety from a hill which appeared during the last eruptions and exhibits dark colored soils, rich in volcanic colluvium.
- The vines of Boudes occupy a vast limestone hillside protected at its summit by a basalt flow.
There are around a hundred winegrowers, more than half of whom are affiliated to the cooperative cellar of the vineyards of Saint Verny. Three grape varieties are used in the production of wines of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Côtes d´Auvergne:
- The red grape varieties, majority Gamay and Pinot Noir cover 90% of the vineyard.
- A single white grape variety, Chardonnay, occupies the remaining 10%.
To be claimed as PDO Côtes d´Auvergne, a red wine must come from the Gamay / Pinot noir blend (with a maximum of 50% of the latter). However, winegrowers can offer a 100% pinot noir wine in IGP Puy de Dôme. As for the whites, Chardonnay is the only authorized grape variety. Established recently, it is very suited to the terroir.
We will introduce you to the other three appellations of origin of the Massif Central in our next Newsletters.