Cave de Verny
Jancis Robinson MW OBE, writes - 'Hats off to the Cave Saint-Verny co-op in the département of Puy-de-Dôme in the Auvergne in the far north east of France's Massif Central. It's not a region famous for its wines today - although at the end of the 19th century it produced so much wine that Puy-de-Dôme was France's third most important wine-producing département after the Aude and Hérault in the Languedoc. But two of the Cave St-Verny's wines labelled, without hyphens, IGP Puy de Dôme - a Pinot and a Chardonnay - struck me as great bargains recently. The Cave Saint-Verny is the Auvergne's only co-operative, founded in 1950 just outside the village of Veyre-Monton. It was nearly dissolved for lack of interest and direction in the 1980s - so many of the locals having given up viticulture for work in Clermont-Ferrand's Michelin tyre factory - but it was rescued by Limagrain, the largest agricultural seed specialist in Europe. In 1993 they financed a new cellar with 37 temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks. (Hardly any oak is used.) A resident oenologist, Olivier Mignard, has been in place since 1999 and seems thoroughly on top of things, having instigated a rigorous assessment of all the vineyards under his control to optimise their potential. This corner of the Auvergne counts, just, as part of the Greater Loire region because it lies on the Allier, a tributary of the Loire, and is not that far from the source of the great river Loire, which is oddly close to the river Rhône in fact. The most exciting restaurant in the Auvergne is in Chassignolles and is reviewed here. It is run by Brits who organise a wine fair and, coincidentally, introduced my cousins who have a house in the Auvergne to this wine. Cave St-Verny is still responsible for about half of all the wine made with the local, recent (2010) appellation, Côtes d'Auvergne. About 80% of what it produces carries this appellation but the rest is now labelled, often rather snazzily, as IGP Puy de Dôme created in 2011. Indeed no wine that is all-Pinot can be a Côtes d'Auvergne whose regulations favour the more widely planted Gamay. The Cave's 90 members have about 180 hectares of vines, so a good half of all the grapes are picked by hand, something that is becoming a rarity at basic to mid level in French viticulture. The vines are spread over dozens of communes with a high proportion of volcanic soils; this is where the Auvergne's famous Puy de Dôme volcano just outside Clermont-Ferrand is located.'