Thursday, October 9, 2014

The sparkling wines of Bugey AOC (Ain, France)

In a recent post I shared a graphic of the full scope of French AOC sparkling wine production and identified the relevant bucket into which each instance fell. One of the least known of the identified AOCs is Bugey, a small wine region within the Ain départment which, though encumbered by anonymity, has the distinction of being one of four regions (the others being Die, Gaillac, and Limoux) which produce sparkling wines using both the method Champenoise and the Method Ancestrale. The sparkling wines of Bugey (circled in orange in the map below) are explored in this post.

Bugey is sometimes mentioned as being part of the Savoie region but, as shown in the map below, that is far from the truth. The wine region, a VDQS prior to gaining AOC status in 2009, covers 500 ha in 65 villages sited alongside the Rhone as it wends its way south in Savoie and then northwest in Bugey.

Expanded view of Bugey. Source:

The existing Bugey soil is a result of both the formation of the French pre-Alps as well as the terminal activity of Ice Age glaciers. While fairly heterogeneous, the soils fall into one of two broad camps: (i) clay and limestone (white clay, mountain scree) or (ii) silica and limestone molasse (terminal deposits). The almost-hidden patches of vineyards which comprise this region face southeast or southwest and are, on average, 5 ha in size.

Bugey has identified three cru vineyards (shown in the map below) within its territory and wines produced in these areas are allowed to place the cru name on the label.

Bugey crus. Source:
The Cerdon cru is comprised of vineyards resident on slopes to the west and south of the namesake village. These steep, south-facing vineyards sit at 500+ m elevation on clay-limestone soils. A total of 10 villages are included in the Cerdon cru. The Montagnieu cru runs along the right bank of the looping Rhone and, as a result, its vineyards face either east or west. The Belley vineyards reside on the gently sloping hillsides between the foothills of the mountain and the banks of the Rhone. The vineyards that are actually in the foothills face steep gradients and limestone boulders. The soil here is variable.

Sparkling wines are produced in Bugey under three separate AOCs: Bugey AOC sparkling, sparkling Bugey Cerdon AOC, and sparkling Montagnieu AOC.

Bugey AOC Sparkling
This AOC covers white and Rosé sparkling wines produced region-wide using the traditional (Champagne) method. A total of 56.5 ha across the 65 villages are engaged in growing grapes for the production of this wine. The Rosé is made from Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes -- together accounting for at leas 50% of the blend -- plus Mondeuse, Pinot Gris, and Poulsard. The white is made from a blend of Chardonnay and Janquère -- at least 70% of the blend -- plus, based on the winemaker's bent, Aligoté, Mondeuse white, Pinot Gris, Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Poulsard. Annual production averages 4000 hl.

Bugey Cerdon AOC
This wine is produced in a Rosé style only using Gamay and Poulsard grapes as the source material. The grapes for this wine  are grown on 136.4 ha of vineyards located on clay-calcareous soils that top the steep hillsides of the 10 villages that comprise the Cerdon cru. The wine is made using the Methode Ancestrale which, in this case, is comprised of the following steps:
  1. Grapes are hand-picked
  2. Then pressed
  3. Partial fermentation at low temperature (preserves the softness, aromas, and colors of the grape; allows retention of some live yeasts) to approximately 6% abv
  4. Light filtration
  5. Bottling
  6. Second fermentation in bottle. At conclusion, 7.5 - 8% abv plus fair amount of sugar
  7. Filter wine
  8. Re-bottle.
This process yields a crisp, tart, sweet wine with a grapey aroma and red fruit flavors. Annual production is at 9620 hl, 30% of the volume of all wine produced in Bugey.

Sparkling Montagnieu AOC
White sparkling wine (dry and semi-dry) made by the traditional method from grapes grown on 23.1 ha in three villages. The varieties involved are Aligoté, Chardonnay, Mondeuse (three together must make up at least 70% of the blend), Janquère, Pinot Noir and Gamay. The grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils infused with small stones and, in some areas, parted by bedrock outcrops. Annual production of 1530 hl.


Of the three wines listed, the Bugey Cerdon is the most well-known; but that is relative. Most of the production is consumed locally -- very.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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