From the hidden heart of France — Red La Légendaire Côte d’Auvergne 2013

The Auvergne region of France is located in the heart of the country. It is France’s most remote and least understood or visited region by people from outside the country. It has the oldest populated region of France, but it has the lowest population density. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that most wine drinkers have never heard of their wines, let alone tried any. To the outside world this region is best known for Michelin car tyres, Volvic water and Saint-Nectaire cheese, with the city at the centre of the region being Clermont-Ferrand.

The Côte d’Auvergne wine region runs from Riom in the north to Issoire in the south in the departément of Puy-de-Dôme. The wines are classified as Loire Valley wines, although geographically the region is closer to both Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. The title of Côte d’Auvergne was introduced in 1951 and classified as VDQS (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supieure), a quality rating second behind France’s top designated quality status of AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée), a classification system used in many agricultural products to denote ‘terroir’, the land and environment that effect the crops’ quality and characteristics.

However on 25th October 2011, the Cote d’Auvergne was upgraded and awarded AOC status. On the 31st December 2011 the VDQS classification was abolished altogether, so all wines in this category were either down graded to Vin de pays/IGT, or upgraded to AOC. Under AOC regulation the permitted grape varieties in the Cote d’Auvergne are Gamay, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with Gamay being the most widely planted, a grape much better known in the production of Beaujolais.

I was given a sample bottle of the Red La Légendaire Côte d’Auvergne 2013 made by Pierre Desprat, with a tribute to his late father Jean Desprat on the label. The vineyard is situated around the town of Aurillac, at 1200 metres above sea level, and has been a family business since 1885. Aurillac is 100 miles south west of Clermont-Fernand, to help you get your bearings.

The wine is a blend of 50% Gamay and 50% Pinot Noir. It has a light bright raspberry coloured appearance and on the nose it has deliciously fruity aromas of cherries, raspberries and freshly cut violets. It is best served in a globe-shaped red Burgundy wine glass to capture all those stunning fruity aromas. On the palate it is a light bodied wine with delicate jammy red fruit flavours and a crisp acidity. This acidity is easier to achieve when you are at a height of 1200 metres. I would drink this with fish, but each to his own…

This wine retails at around €13 a bottle, but I’m afraid you will have to go to the Auvergne if you want to buy it.