An Interview with Catherine Dumora

From three hectares of vineyards set amongst meadows and forests in the South of the Auvergne, Catherine Dumora is producing thoughtful and highly original wines that stand out even in the context of one of France’s most exciting wine regions.

As a passionate grower and articulate speaker, it was a pleasure to sit down with her to learn a little about her journey into the world of wine, what guides her work in both the vineyards and cellar and what the future might hold for Catherine.

Catherine’s wines are available on Tutto a Casa

Hello Catherine. Could you start by telling us a little bit about where you are from?

I was born in Arcachon and grew up between the Bassin d’Arcachon and Bordeaux. After school I studied anthropology, specialising in issues of environmental protection and the living conditions of indigenous populations, both in Southern Brazil and in the state of Paraná in Guaraqueçaba. 

Afterwards I worked in Morocco on a project with a network of farmers, which focused on the training of farmers by farmers, by their peers.

What are your first memories of wine and when did you develop an interest in it?

After my studies I found myself in the Auvergne and I first discovered natural wine and the vignerons at photographic exhibitions and tastings, that was my first meeting.

Previously, wine represented a very distant world to me, of chateaus, estates and of unfamiliar, prestigious settings. It was far from my imagination, from my world, from my field of possibilities.

In 2012 after meeting with Auvergne vignerons such as Patrick Bouju, Pierre Beauger and Thierry Renard I felt more connected with my history. Rural folk, farming families, the relationship with nature and the discovery of the unknown. Vibrant tastes and flavours which evoked feelings, memories, and moved me. 

After this discovery I soon began working in vineyards in 2012 with my partner at the time, and I have been working alone since 2019.

Other than those mentioned are there any other vignerons that have had a large influence on the way you work? 

Each meeting with natural growers is a moment of exchange as to how each of us work, and from these exchanges I always extract a piece of information that will feed my experience and my practice.

Each meeting pushes me to position myself within my choices, to assert myself and to reaffirm my approach: minimalist, harmony, feeling, emotion, surrendering to both intuition and instinct.

Could you tell us a little bit about the part of the Auvergne in which you are based?

I am located in the foothills of Livradois-Forez in the south of the Puy de Dôme department. The vines are surrounded by meadows, nature and fir forests and are exposed on a west-northwest slope. They enjoy a view of the Sancy, the Puys and the Cézalier with a regular westerly wind reminiscent of Atlantic sea air.

Here, I feel like I’m everywhere I’ve lived: from the Arcachon basin, to the Mata Atlantica forest, to the Middle Atlas mountains.

What is the terroir like here? How many hectares are you farming and which grapes?

Today I have three hectares of vines, of which two and a half are in production. The ground is composed of granitic areas full of quartz and amethyst. The soil is sandy and acidic. It is very airy, mineral and rich in metals. It is a burnished soil resulting from a granitic, metamorphic earth.

The grape varieties I grow are Gamay, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Alicante. I have also planted some Riesling, a number of resistant hybrids, Chenin, Pinot Gris and Grenache Gris.

Could you tell us about your approach in the vineyards?

I try to intervene as little as possible. I have very little equipment. A pruner, a lawnmower, a four spout pump, vertical hydraulic press and stoneware jars. I have no tractor and no treatment equipment as of yet.

This makes the work very minimalist and rudimentary, with a level of risk-taking that must be controlled emotionally. I bring someone in to work the soil by horse, one year out of every three on average, in order to avoid the spread of grasses and brambles with the objective of keeping companion plants such as yarrow, oregano, strawberries, horsetail, agrimony and many others.. 

Last year I was not able to do any treatments in the vineyard, which was catastrophic for production and for the year to come. As a result I have to think about equipping myself to be able to provide care to fight against diseases. I want to work mainly with plants, in the form of maceration, floral water and essential oils, but I don’t have any equipment yet and I no longer want to put a sprayer on my back.

How about in the cellar? 

In the cellar I vinify in stoneware jars and age the wines for around eight to nine months, the same time as a pregnancy. Again, I intervene in the cellar little as possible and do not use any phytosanitary products.

For fermentations, there is no rule, it is as the harvest progresses that the choices are made.

Your wines from the 2020 vintage display a lightness of touch whilst offering plenty of complexity. It seems you are experimenting more between pressing directly and macerating. What inspired this creativity in the cellar?

I improvised in 2020 depending on the state of the grapes. Twice the vineyards suffered from hail and there was a lot of sorting to do during the harvest. As a result, I made the decision to press a lot of the grapes as soon as they came into the cellar and then macerated the very best grapes within that juice, whether they were destemmed or kept as whole bunches.

For me it was a question of taking the best of each grape, rather than applying a recipe. I adapt to the grapes. I didn’t know where I was going but the wines came out with freshness, lightness and fruit and have become subtle and delicate as they mature. It’s also an encounter and a discovery every time… with each vintage I call on my intuition, it’s what guides me, along with the harmony I have with the vines and the grapes… we vibrate together, we share our energy… I listen to my grapes and my instincts.

We really enjoyed the sparkling wines you made in the past. Do you think you will make more of these in the future? 

Yes of course, at the moment I have sparkling wines ageing from 2019 and 2021. The majority of the 2019s were in fact sparkling. There will always be some bubbles. In 2020 I was unable to make any as the bottles did not arrive in time. But I won’t be caught out again!

Finally, what does the future hold for Catherine Dumora?

Finding energy again and again, being well taken care of by my surroundings. To continue to be in love with love, as my friends tell me, and to let myself be guided by the flame within me. To continue to believe in it and to transmit this way of being to the world, to the earth… the synergy of plants, of man and of the plant. The grape, the fermentation of juice as a medium for talking about life, for living in harmony with the land, Pachamama. To be even more connected to the vibrational systems that are beyond us. But shhh……