A Tour of Bugey with Patrick Bottex
Patrick Bottex makes one of the most delicious beverages in existence. He runs his tiny operation in the little hamlet of La Cueille, located near the town of Poncin in the Bugey region, somewhere between Lyon and Geneva. Despite the proximity to these major cities and the nearby autoroute, it might nonetheless be an understatement to call the area remote. In my short visit there I probably saw more cows than people—the humid, grassy mountainsides are perfect for the production of dairy products including butter, milk, and a variety of cheeses.
However, these hills also have a long history of grape growing. Patrick offered to give me a tour of his vineyards on his ATV, but before starting the engine, he poured us each a glass of his Bugey-Cerdon. Sparkling Bugey is made not in the méthode traditionelle that we know from Champagne, but in the méthode ancestrale, where the wine is bottled part way through fermentation. “Back in the day, Bugey-Cerdon was a Christmas wine,” Patrick explained. “The heat of spring would cause the bottles to restart fermentation and explode from the pressure. As a result, the locals consumed all the wine over the holidays.” Fortunately, modern winemaking techniques and stronger bottles allow today’s Bugey to be available all year long.
We eventually hopped on Patrick’s ATV and sped off on a dirt road up the hill. He stopped at the base of a very steep vineyard and we dismounted. “This is my Gamay,” he began. “As you can see, I do not weed my vineyards—this is to maintain biodiversity in the soil and prevent erosion.” The vines stood tall, showing healthy foliage and pristine round purple berries. The space between each row was filled with all sorts of insects crawling around in the bright green grass.
We continued the ride and zoomed off into the wind, stopping only for a herd of cows, who clearly had the right of way. Minutes later, Patrick motioned toward a nearby vineyard. “This is my neighbor’s plot. He weeds between each row and uses chemical products on the soil.” The contrast with his own plot proved astounding—here, the vines looked as though they were struggling to stay standing, and many of the bunches were nastily discolored by rot.
Upon returning to the winery, we shared one more glass of Cerdon before I had to leave. For a rosé, its color is atypically dark, mirroring its bright flavors of fresh raspberries, cherries, and red currants. Gamay and Poulsard are the grapes responsible for this charming sparkler that is sweet only to the point of prompting you to dig your nose into your glass and quaff down the contents effortlessly.
Bugey-Cerdon is traditionally consumed as an aperitif or with dessert, but the possibilities are limitless. According to my colleagues here at KLWM, a glass of Bugey is appropriate at brunch, on the beach, at a party, in the bath, or with a significant other. We encourage you to explore other fitting occasions!