Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's Bugey!

If you know the Bugey region at all, it is probably for its lightly sweet and sparkling wine, usually made from the Rousette grape, aka Altesse. The best of them are from the village of Cerdon, and the place you are most likely to find them is either Lyon (to the west) or at the ski resorts around Grenoble (to the east). A few of them are imported into the U.S., where they tend to be regarded as sort of a Gallic high-end version of Moscato d'Asti. Bugey is considered part of the Jura, although it is located at the southernmost point of the appellation, and is actually very close to Savoie. I would argue that Bugey really does have a terroir of its own, with a main theme of limestone, with variations of white marl and silica.

Red grapes grow in Bugey, too. Pinot noir and gamay are widely planted, as is the Jura staple Poulsard. Less often cultivated is mondeuse, a grape native to the region that is sometimes compared to syrah and sometimes to refosco, and sometimes claimed to be a vinous relative of one or the other. One of mondeuse's champions is Franck Peillot of Famille Peillot. He's a fifth-generation winemaker who perseveres with mondeuse, growing it on a small portion of his already tiny 15-acre vineyard in the village of Montagnieu. He is one of a handful of vignerons still working this area, which has seen vineyard acreage drastically reduced over the last century, largely because of the onslaught of phylloxera.

Bugey Famille Peillot Mondeuse 2007: It's not an expensive wine, but it deserves a big glass, so you can get the full impact of the nose, which is sort of an olfactory idealization of an Alpine morning: a profusion of sweet herbal notes along with the unmistakable (and Beaujolais-like) aroma of fresh raspberries. In the mouth, the wine offers flavors of tart plum and maybe a little bitter cherry at the end; there are fine-textured tannins present, but not obtrusive. We had it with pan-sauteed pork loin with brussles sprouts and lardons; it would probably also go very well with one of those Bresse chickens, which come from the same larger region. The wine has plenty of satisfying fruit, but not a bit of sweetness.

Note: The label reads “Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure,” once used to denote wines that aspired to Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status. It has since been replaced by “Appellation d'Origine Protégée” at the behest of the European Union for reasons best known only to itself.

You can learn more about Franck Peillot by checking out Bertrand Celce's story, which is, as usual, enlightening and visually beautiful.

This was around $20 at the soon-to-disappear Vinsite.

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