Volcanic wines from Auvergne

© T. Joly
In Puy-de-Dôme, a few dozens of winemakers and a cooperative have revived the production of quality wines. Volcanic soils and altitude give these wines particular characteristics.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
420 km from Paris on autoroutes A6b, A10 and A71.
- By train
Intercités trains from Paris Bercy to Clermont-Ferrand. The journey takes 3 h 25.
- By plane
Air France flights from Paris Orly to Clermont Ferrand
- Hotels
Hôtel Best Western Gergovie, in Pérignat-Lès-Sarlieve
Logis Le Pariou, in Issoire
Le Boudes La Vigne, in Boudes
Château de Codignat, in Bord l’Etang
- Bed and Breakfast
L’Elémentaire, near Rioms
Le Petit Bonneval, in Pérignat-Lès-Sarlieve
Le Boudes La Vigne, in Boudes
Le Jardin, in Issoire
Château de Codignat, in Bord l’Etang
Au Fil de l’Eau, in Corent
Getting around
It’s necessary to have a car to get to the wineries
Cave Saint Verny
2 route d’Issoire, 63960 Veyre-Monton
Open Thursday to Saturday (Monday as well in July – August) from 9am to noon and from 2pm to 6.30pm
Tel : 0473696011
- Puy-de-Dôme Tourist Office
Tel : 0473294966
- Puy-de-Dôme Wine Federation
For sure, very few people think of Puy-de-Dome as a wine region. This mountainous department of central France commonly called Auvergne, is more known for its mineral waters Volvic and Châtel-Guyon.
However, there are approximately 700 hectares of vineyards and an AOC Cotes d'Auvergne was even introduced in 2011.

© T. Joly
 Five grape varieties
This recognition rewards the local winemakers who spent the last twenty years working hard to improve the quality of the wines and develop the production. The latter remains well below what it was in the late 19th century when the Auvergne vineyards covered 46,000 ha before being almost totally destroyed by phylloxera.
Current vineyards are spread over about 80 km, between Rioms to the north and Saint-Germain-Lembron, south of Issoire, along the eastern foothills of the Puys, names given to the volcanoes of Auvergne. They are planted between 300 m and 550 m above sea level on south and southeast facing slopes whose soils are mostly volcanic (basalt, pozzolan). Five varieties are grown and produce red, rosé, white and sparkling wines. Gamay, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the only ones permitted in the making of AOC Cotes d'Auvergne wines while sauvignon blanc and syrah can also be used for IGP Puy-de-Dome wines.

© T. Joly
 Cave Saint Verny
If you have limited time, the best way to get a glimpse of the diversity of Auvergne wines is to visit the Saint-Verny cooperative that is since its beginnings at the forefront of the region’s improving wine quality. With 80 growers totalling 180 hectares of vines spread across the department, it indeed produces all the types of wines of the local AOC and IGP. Try the Saint Roch, a white wine made from Chardonnay grown around 500 meters of altitude, the Renaissance and the Privilege, both blends of pinot noir and gamay, the Basalt, a 100 % gamay aged in oak barrels, the Latitude 45.3 made from Syrah as well as wines from the AOC’s five village appellations or crus. Madargues, Chanturgue, Châteaugay and Bourdes that are only awarded to red wines, Corent that is reserved for a rosé wine.
The Cave Saint-Verny’s cellar and store are located in the Veyre-Monton, 16 km south of Clermont-Ferrand and only 5 km from Corent.

© T. Joly
 Five crus
The vines grow above the village, on the slopes of the namesake Puy, and give aromatic rosé wines with tangy and fruity flavors. At the top of the Puy stand the ruins of a Gallic village where archaeologists have found many Roman wine amphorae proving Celts loved wine before the first vines were planted in the region, in the 2nd - 3rd century AD. From there, you have a beautiful view of the Gergovie plateau where Julius Caesar suffered its worst defeat during the conquest of Gaul. The vine is also grown on its slopes, particularly by a renowned organic winemaker based in La Roche Blanche, Gilles Persilier. He also produces Chanturgue, the smallest appellation village of the AOC , whose wines were once very famous for their elegance and their balance. The Sun King Louis XIV greatly appreciated them and rooster in Chanturgue wine sauce was one of the favourite dishes of King Henri IV.

© T. Joly
 Urban encroachment
Unfortunately, today there are only 3.5 hectares of vines. As they are located on the outskirts of Clermont-Ferrand, urbanization indeed encroaches onto the hillsides where they are planted. There is even no cellar there. All winemakers producing Chanturgue wines are installed in other appellations where they also have vineyards. As an example, Pierre Coigoux and Jean-Pierre Prugnard have their cellars at Cébezat, further north of the Auvergne main city, within the area of the Chateaugay village appellation. Owing its name to a nearby village, it is the largest of the five with 80 ha of vines and its stretches till the outskirts of Rioms, at Menetrol, where Roland and Catherine Royet produce some of the best wines of this appellation.
A former capital of Auvergne, boasting a rich medieval and Renaissance heritage, Rioms, is close to another village appellation : Madargues.

Montpeyroux © T.Joly
 Promising terroirs
Located to the North, revived in the late 80s, it covers 15 hectares and produces wines with a different typicity, more fruity, because it is the only one where the vines are planted on soils without volcanic elements. Finally, the last appellation, Boudes, spreads around the namesake charming medieval village, on the southern tip of the Auvergne vineyard. Its full bodied and powerful yet elegant wines that can age several years and those made Jacques and Xavier Abonnat or Annie Sauvat bear witness to these qualities.
Having said that, other terroirs, too, have great potential for high quality wine production as demonstrated by three winemakers. Alain Caudet, whose estate is close the beautiful Tournoël castle, near Volvic. Odette et Gilles Miolanne who make wine around the village of Neschers. Yvan Bernard who planted vines on the granite terraces overlooking the Allier River, near Montpeyroux, a charming and picturesque village perched on a hilltop that retains a keep, ramparts and many old winegrowers' houses.

June 05, 2013
Thierry Joly