The first wine that I had in Auvergne was François Dhumes' rosé, and it was a welcome and refreshing respite in this sunny summer day.
François is a soft-spoken young vigneron, a native from Auvergne who shares his time between his own small surface of vineyards and outside work he makes for Patrick Bouju's vineyards and also for Vincent Tricot, another vigneron working organic. This helps him make a living and face the expenses of starting a winery.
Making a pause in the middle of the day, he and Patrick started to picnic under the shade of a tree with me as guest when Patrick had to drive back to his facility because a truck driver was waiting for a pallet of wine there (the freight company was supposed to call ahead to come take the wine but the truck just dropped without notice instead).
With the company of his two lovely dogs whom I discovered are keen amateurs of cheese rind, we chatted about his own work and winemaking. François Dhumes's vineyard is located at a short distance of Clermont-Ferrand (south-east of) on slopes with volcanic soils (browse to the bottom-right of this Loire Appellatios map and zoom when centered on the pink patch of the wine region of Auvergne).
François Dhumes has one hectare of Gamay and another half hectare of Chardonnay. The Gamay rosé was pressed after being picked, vinified in resin vats, racked once, then another time before bottling. The malolactic fermentation was completed and there's 5 or 6 grams of residual sugar.
For the harvest, he calls friends who come here helping several consecutive saturdays. They all have good time then, he says, it is pretty festive while work at the same time.
With the white grapes, he makes mostly sparkling (natural sparkling), picking relatively early with a level of 12° or 12,5°.
For the rosé, he notices that the Gamay went up very fast in alcohol in 2009 without fully-completed phenolic maturation. 2009 is a special year and he's not sure this vintage will have a long lifespan. He understands that the vintages conditions ask alternatively for more rosé or for more reds, the grapes conditions decide and he's trying to adapt. This last winter was pârticularly cold, he adds, and the snow stayed a long time all over the place.
In spite of the huge potential for archeological discoveries on the Corent plateau, the French administration in charge of the archeology research has refused to let the Swiss archeologis Mathieu Poux keep digging in Corent... The freeze on research on such a prolific site is mind bogling, some people say that it could be because it shadows the archeological site of Gergovie near there, Gergovie being the "official" city of the Gauls extolled by the state research bodies. The recent discoveries unearthed near Corent are putting into question years of official archeology and some people in place in the ministry ressent that. There's been lots of protests about this unexplained will of the ministry to freeze the diggings in Corent (see this Forum).
On this vineyard like in the rest of the Corent mountain, the soil nature results from volcanic activity, it's mostly basalt with clay/limestone. François Dhumes sprayed once this year, he says. This Gamay vineyard here is about 30 years old and it is exposed on south/south-east, this is a rented vineyard. Asked about the work here, he says that it's small enough to let him time to work for others : he works for Patrick Bouju and for Vincent Tricot who is also farming organic.
We drive now to Pérignat-sur-Allier to see his cellar and facility. Hi cellar opens on a courtyard shared by several families and the door, the stairs of the cellar, every detail point to a very old cellar with a long history of winemaking.
Once down the flight of stairs, you bath with delight in the cool air of the cellar (it can be hot outside in Auvergne). François got everything he needs here to vinify the grapes of his one hectare something : resin vats, a few casks, a 4-spout gravity filler.
He sells his wine to cavistes (not in Paris yet, though) and individual customers. There's also a natural-wine bar in Clermont-Ferrand (the major town near there) where his wines can be found : le Bistrot Bancal is a tiny wine bar where you'll find other gems from the Auvergne wine scene.
François Dhumes also takes part to a natural-wine event which takes place in the region, in Chateldon : Dix Vins Cochons. It's a festive and warmful tasting event where he meets lots of individual customers.
Speaking of his public rates for the wines, the rosé cost about 5 €, the reds 6 € and 8 €, the Pet'Nat 9 € and the still Chardonnay 8 €.
Jeu de Vin (Gamay, carbonic maceration)
Minettev (Gamay, long maceration)
Tête de Bulle (Chard pet'nat)
Nuit Blanche (still Chard). All these cuvées make 1000 bottles each, in short. They're all unfined, unfiltered wine without anyy additives or lab yeasts.
His two reds are :
the first red is the result of 3 weeks of carbonic maceration in resin vats with thereafter 6 months of élevage. The second red, a Gamay also, is made from destemmed grapes macerating 7 to 8 weeks, with an élevage of 12 months in casks (till november). He doesn't move this wine, he just tops it from time to time.
Along with Patrick Bouju and Hacer, we tasted a few wines at François' cellar :
__ François Dhumes Nuit Blanche 2009. Still Chardonnay. Picked at 12°, 12,5° he says, he looks to pick with freshness. He began to bottle his 2007 still Chardonnay recently, after nearly 3 years of élevage. In 2009, he made only one cask of it, the rest of the Chard is used for the sparkling. Nice pear aromas.
__ François Dhumes, Nuit Blanche 2007, from another cask. Very light oxydative notes on the nose. Lightly perly mouth. Intensity in the mouth, some residual sugar. There's some volatile here he says. A year ago, this cask had still 25 grams of residual sugar. He had 3 casks of this wine initially.
__ François Dhumes Nuit Blanche 2007. This one is very oxydative. 2007 was his first vintage for whites, he began his reds one year earlier in 2006. Every one in the party loves this wine, there's even some curry notes in the end of the mouth, beautiful. There are also eau de vie aromas, even ether notes. Nice vibration in the mouth, last well.Patrick feels also a salty feel here.
__ François Dhumes Minette 2009. From a cask too. Gamay, bottled end of november. Clear robe. Nice minerality, I feel, with the thin tannins behind. On the nose, cooked morello cherries, also acidulous candy. This Gamay comes from the volcanic soil of Corent, vines aged 30 years. Asked about what surface he's like to reach in terms of vineyard, he says that he's not sure he wants to grow at this point. Maybe 2 hectares would be fine (he works on 1,4 hectare right now)..
The pic on right show a veil on the surface of the wine in a half-filled cask.
François Dhumes exports his wines to Japan through Cosmojun (Junko Arai), and to Belgium