Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cotes d'Auvergne II

I spent so much time talking about the history, geography, and culture of Cotes d'Auvergne last time, I forgot to talk about the wine! When you come across the oldest inhabited region of France with a geological history like this one it is easy to digress. The wine in question, by the way, is Le Pinot Noir and Le Chardonnay from the large co-op, Cave Saint Verny, located just south of Clermont-Ferrand in the middle of d'Auvergne. Clermont-Ferrand is the home of industrial giant, Michelin and its associated industries that have taken over the middle of the valley basin. The vineyards are now all situated on the slopes of the surrounding mountains. The soil as stated before is a complex array of minerality allowing for good drainage from the sloped plantings making the current situation optimal for the limited modern wine industry there.

While d'Auvergne is on the same parallel as Cotes Rotie and St. Emilion, Rhone and Bordeaux grapes do not do well at this higher altitude which explains why d'Auvergne in its 19th century heyday was only known for ordinary quality production. The climate of d'Auvergne, being northern continental and affected by north Atlantic weather patterns, allows for the popular varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to be ideal choices for viniculture there.

The third grape allowed in d'Auvergne is Gamay and it comes in two varieties. There is of course the Gamay of Beaujolais in southern Burgundy but also in d'Auvergne is an ancient clone of Gamay native to the region. 90% of the wine production from d'Auvergne is red wine and by law all reds from d'Auvergne must be at least 50% Gamay so how "Le Pinot Noir" became so named is beyond me. The 10% of white wine production in d'Auvergne is entirely Chardonnay.

There are five premier vineyard regions that encircle Clermont-Ferrand and Saint Verny draws from three of them: Madargues to the north and Corent and Boudes to the south. The five premier regions produce half of the wine of d'Auvergne and Saint Verny is one of one hundred sixty-five wine concerns operating there. The Saint Verny wine cooperative was established in 1950 and d'Auvergne received its VDQS rating one year later. VDQS is the medium quality rating in French Wine Law. The top rating, AOC, is expected to be awarded to d'Auvergne this year.

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