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Limestone and Roses in Eastern France

by Anthony Lynch

Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille”

Patrick Bottex   France   |   Savoie and Bugey   |  Bugey


My last tasting trip—before the world as we knew it was upended—took me on an epic trek seeing vignerons in the Loire, Beaujolais, Bugey, Savoie, and Piedmont. The most striking visit, at least as far as terroir is concerned, did not involve walking the flint-laden Kimmeridgian limestone sites of Pouilly-Fumé, or the rolling granitic hills of Morgon and Fleurie, or the majestic marl slopes of Barolo. Surprisingly, what stuck with me most were the vineyards of Patrick Bottex, who specializes in the perilously lighthearted méthode ancestrale sparkling Bugey-Cerdon.
           Patrick’s Cerdon is so lively and playful that it’s easy to overlook where it comes from, and the back-breaking labor required to produce it. Sitting on the western edge of the Alps between Savoie and the Jura, the Bugey is a fascinating little region with enormous potential for expressive cool-climate wines. Its rocky vineyards are nestled against steep mountainsides requiring significant strength and perseverance to farm—this became apparent upon discovering a new parcel Patrick and his son, Carl, had just planted.
          We trudged up an endless, near-vertical hill, trying not to break any ankles on the crumbly limestone debris littering the ground, before arriving at the top to a splendid view of the Ain river, the plains looking southwest toward Lyon, and the 12th-century Château de Poncin, to which the vineyard once belonged. The Bottexes had spent several years clearing the land of brush, removing massive boulders one by one, and coaxing Gamay and Poulsard vines into taking root almost directly into the calcareous bedrock. No doubt about it—this is serious terroir.
          And yet, Bugey-Cerdon is anything but a serious wine. Its seductive deep pink glimmers in the glass, emanating ambrosial fragrances of alpine strawberries and roses. It dances over the palate, just sweet enough, perked up by a fine bead and a crystalline finish crisp as a mineral spring. Great wine does not need to be thought-provoking or meditative—Patrick’s Bugey-Cerdon is proof that a top terroir can manifest itself in the most festive and carefree of ways.


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