Desprat Saint-Verny winery & shop
2 Route d’Issoire, 63960 Veyre-Monton
On our first full day in the Côtes d’Auvergne we spent the day with Léa Desprat, daughter of Pierre Desprat who is managing director of Desprat Saint-Verny.
The Desprat Vins company was founded in 1885 in Aurillac. Pierre has run this wholesale wine company since 1984. In 2017 Desprat Vins merged with the Auvergne co-operative Saint-Verny, which was founded in 1950 and has been owned since 1991, following the co-op getting into financial problems, by Limagrain, a seed specialist company. This brought the largest distributor of Auvergne wines with the largest Auvergne producer into partnership. Léa along with her sister Lucie are the fifth generation of the Desprat family to be involved in the company.
Saint-Verny now has 62 associate grape growers with around 170 hectares of vines and vinifies 8000 hectolitres producing one million bottles of wine (Côtes d’Auvergne and IGP Puy de Dôme) a year. The aim is to keep yields down to 45 hl/ha. In total the Auvergne wine region has around 400 hectares in production – 267 ha as appellation Côtes d’Auvergne, 71 hectares as IGP Puy de Dôme and 50 hectares as Vin de France. This makes Desprat Saint-Verny as by far the largest producer in the Auvergne accounting for just under half of the total vineyards in production.
about 10 kms north of Clermont-Ferrand
Our day with Léa started at the Domaine de la Croix Arpin at Châteaugay owned by Pierre Goigoux, who is good friends with Pierre Desprat. Pierre created his domaine in 1989 and now has 18 hectares of vines mainly in two of the Auvergne crus – Châteaugay (total area: 64ha with vines between 300 and 500 metres altitude) and Chanturgue (6ha) which is in Clérmont-Ferrand. Both crus are for red wine only, so whites (Chardonnay) and rosés (Gamay/Pinot Noir) produced here are plain Côtes d’Auvergne. We also met Etienne Rachez, who used to be the wine-maker for Saint-Verny. He is now in partnership with Pierre making a range of wines called Héritage Volcanic from purchased grapes coming from 10ha of widely scattered plots both north and south of Clermont-Ferrand.
After the introductions we headed out to one of Pierre’s vineyards close to Châteaugay town to have a look at the type of volcanic soil here and, in particular, the pépérites, which are described as ‘volcanic truffles’.
Pierre showing us some pépérits
Pierre: « Here we are in a rain shadow formed by the chain of volcanoes to the west. We have less than 600mm of rain a year, which is similar to Nice or to Alsace. This means that mildew is much less of a threat here than it is in other parts of the Loire. There has been a big change in the image of organic viticulture over the past few years. Eight years ago or so I wouldn’t have considered going organic – I was certified Terra Vitis. Last year, however, I started the conversion to become organic and I think it won’t be long before all vineyards are organic. »
to the faint smudge of the hills of
the Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez
Gnarled old vine
We tasted wines from both Pierre’s Domaine de la Croix Arpin and Etienne’s Héritage Volcanic range. Here is a selection:
Domaine de la Croix Arpin:
2018 La Fondeuse Blanc, Côtes d’Auvergne
Pierre describes his La Fondeuse as a Chardonnay in a ‘Burgundian style’. This cuvée from selected parcels is vinified and aged in barrel for 12 months and naturally the 2018 has a touch of wood. It is richly textured, concentrated and may well develop further in bottle.
2018 Les Amandiers, Côtes d’Auvergne Châteaugay
From a parcel of vines with almond trees around the edge of the plot, this is a blend of Gamay with some Pinot Noir. Attractive richly textured black fruits, considerable concentration and length. Can be drunk with pleasure now but it should age well and develop further in bottle.
2018 Côtes d’Auvergne Châteaugay
A blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir with attractive soft, quite rich fruit and good texture. To drink now or keep for up to five or six years.
2018 Le Damas Noir, IGP Puy de Dome
Damas Noir is a variety of Syrah that was around before phylloxera but then became almost extinct. A conservatoire for rare grape varieties was established in the Auvergne in 1990 and Damas Noir was one of the varieties that was rescued. Pierre planted some Damas Noir in 2011. This rare wine has red cherry and floral notes, concentrated fruit and freshness in the finish.
Some Syrah is now being planted in the Auvergne. It has, however, to be labelled as IGP since it is not an authorised variety for Côtes d’Auvergne.
1495 Chardonnay 2019, Côtes d’Auvergne
1495 is the height of Le Puy de Dôme. A part of this white Côte d’Auvergne is vinified and aged in barrel. It has crisp citric and floral notes and freshness and salinity in the finish despite having 14% alcohol.
2019 Effet de Fun, Côtes d’Auvergne 13.5% alc.
A rosé made from 100% Gamay ‘pressurage direct’ (no skin contact) with pear notes. From vines on volcanic soil it has notes of pears along with some textured mouthfeel. I was impressed by the quality of the rosés that we tasted in the Auvergne and this has been confirmed by drinking some of them back in Touraine.
There will be further reports to come on our visit to the Auvergne.