Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Auvergne (cont): Domaine Miolanne


Domaine Miolanne 

Vineyards and the wooden winery @Domaine Miolanne

We made a morning visit to Domaine Miolanne on our second and last full day in the Côtes d'Auvergne. The evening before in a bistro/wine bar in nearby Champeix we had drunk their sparkling – Bulles de Miolanne Brut – for our apéro and found the dosage too high for our taste, so I had a slight reservation before our visit. Happily this was put to rest during our visit.




Domaine Miolanne was established in 2012 by Laure Cartier and Jean-Baptiste Deroche. Laure comes from a family of vignerons –  Mas de Gourgonnier in Les Baux de Provence, while Jean-Baptiste is an oenologue. Since 1990 there had been a five-hectare domaine here. Miolanne now extends over 17 hectares with 10 hectares of vines and five of cereals. Laure and Jean-Baptiste immediately started converting their domaine to organic viticulture achieving certification in 2016. In 2014 built their wooden chai, which includes a tasting area and a wine bar, which is open during the summer.

Laure Cartier
Laure Cartier

The domaine, which is at around 450 metres, which means that there is a considerable range of summer temperature between the day and night, which helps to keep acidity in the grapes. There is a range of volcanic soils: lava, basalt and pumice as well as clay-limestone. Their oldest vines date from 1940. Unfortunately they were hit by frost in 2017 – their vineyards are relatively flat. Then by drought last year leading to a loss of 65% of a normal crop. In the generous 2018 vintage they produced 50,000 bottles, while in 2019 just 20,000.

Lying in the rain shadow of Le Mont Dore and Le Puy de Sancy the average rainfall is here is 450 mm. Overall this part of the Auvergne has less rain than other areas of the Loire. For example the weather station at Clermont Ferrand recorded an average rainfall of 578 mm between 1981 and 2010 this compares with an average of 695.6 mm at Tours.

Miolanne has a range of of grape varieties: 3.5 hectares each of Gamay and Pinot Noir, a hectare of Chardonnay, 0.5 ha each of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Syrah. With Laure we had a quick tour of the vines as well as a disused quarry close to one of their vineyards.

Laure + volcanic rock

The disused quarry
(above and below)
Close up of carrière

Unfortunately hail storms are a regular threat here and part of Miolanne has hail netting protection covering a plot of young vines. The netting, which is approved by the INAO, can be lifted for the harvest, it does slow grape maturity slightly by two or three days says Laure. It is no surprise that it is expensive: 15,000 € per hectare.

Hail netting  

Netting providing protection against hail 



2019 D–Miolanne VDF
This is an unusual blend of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer plus a little Pinot Gris, which is fermented and aged in barrel. From vines ob pumice it has citric aromas, attractive texture and floral notes.

2019 Volcane Rosé, Côtes d'Auvergne
An equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir and a pale pink, this is another successful rosé from the Auvergne – well balanced attractive red fruits and a fresh finish with some saline notes.

2019 Volcane Rouge, Côtes d'Auvergne
Also an equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, this is very much a juicy, easy drinking vin des  copains with some smoky notes.

2019 Basalt éphmère
100% Gamay and vinified by carbonic maceration resulting in sweet ripe quite concentrated black fruits with a slight bitterness in the finish that adds interest.

Hors Piste, PetNat, VDF
Made from 100% Gamay and vinified this crisp, lemony, extra brut PetNat was to my taste much more exciting and enjoyable than the Bulles de Miloanne that we had drunk the previous evening.


Domaine Miolanne is another domaine which underlines that the Côtes d'Auvergne and the other appellations of Upper Loire are well worth exploring.











Sunday, 26 July 2020

Côtes d’Auvergne: Discovering Desprat Saint-Verny with Léa (Part 2 – pm)

Pinot Gris 4.4

Léa Desprata
Léa Desprat

At the end of June I wrote about our morning getting to know Desprat Saint-Verny with Léa Desprat, now it is time to cover the afternoon activities. However, before I do a mention of an enjoyable lunch at Hostellerie Le Petit Bonneval at 63170 Pérignat lès Sarliève a little to the south of Clermont Ferrand.  The dining room is comfortable and spacious with the possibility of eating outside in good weather. Our lunchtime menu was 27€ for three courses.

Petit Bonneval
Lunch @ Hostellerie Le Petit Bonneval
a little to the south of Clermont Ferrand

Entrée Petit B

First course: cured salmon
Our best course

Gilles Vidal and basalt

Gilles Vidal
Gilles Vidal, vigneron and president of the Syndicat AOC des Côtes d'Auvergne

Gilles - basalt
Gilles with a lump of basalt

After lunch we met Gilles Vidal, an associate with Desprat Saint-Verny, in his steeply sloping vineyard at St Georges sur Allier to see a vineyard planted on basalt. Gilles has a layer of clay-limestone above basalt. He explained that Pinot Noir from vines planted on basalt tends to be less peppery than when planted on other volcanic soils. St Georges sur Allier is around 15 kilometres to the south east of Clermont Ferrand, so there is significant pressure on vineyards continuing because of the lucrative demand for land for housing.

Gilles talked about the renaissance of the Côtes d'Auvergne that had started in the 1970s when production was transformed from vin de soif when water would be added to marc (grape residue after fermentation) to make more thin wine to quality wine. Noble grape varieties were planted, yields cut and new equipment purchased. Under AOC Côtes d'Auvergne is maximum is 55 hl/ha and 52 hl/ha for the crus.

Cave de Saint-Verny, Veyre-Monton

After our visit with Gilles Vidal we headed to Veyre-Monton and the Cave de Saint– Verny's winery and shop. The winery has an impressive array of stainless steel, some refurbished old concrete tanks and a new barrel cellar with volcanic overtones. To date there are no fashionable concrete eggs or amphores – something for the future?
St V winery

Barrel cellar

Following visiting the winery we had a pretty comprehensive tasting of the extensive range of the Desprat Saint-Verny wines. Overall the range was impressive, which is crucial as Saint-Verny accounts for around 50% of the production of Côte d'Auvergne. If the Saint-Verny range was poor it would really be an uphill task to improve the region's image. There were no poor wines here.

Here are some  highlights:

Tracteur Bleu
 2018 Le Tracteur Bleu, AOC

Le Tracteur Bleu (100% Gamay) is the entry level red and it does exactly what it is supposed to do – a juicy, soft easy drinking red in short a vin des copains.

2017 Les Coutayres (Pinot Gris),
IGP Puy de Dôme

Les Coutayres is a well made, lightly perfumed, quite rich Pinot Gris coming from various parcels.

809 Chard Muscaté
2019 809 Chardonnay Muscaté, AOC

One of three good Chardonnays we tasted. The 809 has rich concentration and texture with a saline finish.

2019 Corent – La Chambre de Léa AC
(80% Gamay 20% Pinot Noir)

This was yet another good example from Corent – Auvergne cru exclusive for rosé. We were very impressed with the Corents we tasted during our trip and this has been confirmed by subsequently drinking those we bought while in the Auvergne. Direct press giving onion skin this Corent has interest and complexity making it more than just a pleasant rosé for an apéro, so a wine for grilled fish for instance.

348 Gamay
2017 348 Gamay, AOC

The 348 Gamay has more concentration and length than Tracteur Bleu but so it should as it is about twice the price. To drink now or keep for another year or so.

17 Le Legendaire
2017 La Légendaire, Côtes d'Auvergne

La Légendaire is Saint-Verny's icon wine range. These wines spend six months aging in a buron in Cantal at 1200 metres. The red Légendaire is an equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, which spends 12 moths in barrique before its six month sojourn high up in Cantal. This is an impressive red that can be enjoyed now but may well yet improve further – sweet ripe fruit, slightly smoky aromas and a long finish.

Pierre & Léas
Pierre Desprat and his daughter Léa

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Jean Candiago is Epeigné-les-Bois' new Maire

Jean Candiago with his wife Véronique

Following last Sunday's 2nd Round of the Municipal Elections the first meeting of Epeigné-les-Bois new Conseil Municipal was held last evening. Jean Candiago was elected Maire, Michèle Prieur as 1st Deputy Maire, Claire Dupré as 2nd Deputy Maire and Michel Caraty as 3rd Deputy Maire. 

Conseillers: Frédéric Chevalier, Stéphanie Maghissene, Fabienne Somméria, Francis Benoît, Amélie Boguet, Viviane Fève and Ludovic Guillon.

Announcement following meeting (3.7.2020)

Jean Candiago replaces Christian Percevault, who has been Maire since 2014.  

I hope the new Conseil can heal the divisions that have sadly divided Epeigné for too many years. 

 Christian Percevault @VE ceremony
8th May 2020