What is Bugey-Cerdon?

by Everyday Wine

After a nearly eighteen month hiatus we finally have Renardat-Fâche back in the country, this time with three different méthode ancestrale wines!

Cerdon du Bugey or Bugey-Cerdon is a slightly sweet sparkling rosé wine from Bugey, France. It is made by just a handful of producers in the tiny appellation of Bugey where local doctrine and appellation control dictate the winemaking technique and wine style. Mérignat is a small village in Bugey which is about an hour’s detour East on the drive from Beaujolais to Jura, bordering the Savoie (so very close to Switzerland).

Bugey itself is a tiny appellation - just 500 hectares in total (Marlborough for example is just shy of 30,000 hectares) - and Renardat-Fâche is 12 hectares of that. The winery is located at the top of a hill with the vineyards quickly dropping off to each side, and although the altitude is modest (2-300m), the terrain is mountainous and dramatic. The soils are similar to the Jura too with Jurassic limestone with some white and grey marle.

Since 1974, Alain Renardat-Fâche has been growing Gamay and Ploussard biodynamically (Ecocert-certified) and making it in this traditional Méthode Ancestrale demi-sec style, but these days his son Elie and his wife Christelle are in charge. The grapes are harvested together, whole-bunch pressed and fermented in chilled stainless steel open-top vats until the wine reaches about 6 degrees alcohol. It is racked clean and direct into bottle where it continues fermentation, reaching about 7.5-8 degrees of alcohol so retaining a fair amount of its original sugar and primary fruit flavour. The wine is bottled under cork and cage but is much more vinous (grapey/primary fruit) than say Champagne and is truly unlike anything else! It is a beautiful, delicate, refreshing, elegant and very pleasant wine to drink.

With such stringent rules around the winemaking, what separates one producer from another really boils down to their farming and the quality of their fruit that they produce. Sure, the estate is Biocert certified Biodynamic, but I'd also attribute some skill, technique and experience here too. Alain and Elie are definitely regarded as the best producers in the appellation and without a doubt it was their famous black label that put Bugey-Cerdon on the world wine map.

A few updates since we last had Bugey-Cerdon: 

It's fair to say that the traditional drinking 'window' of Bugey-Cerdon goes unnoticed. We have seen bottles of Bugey-Cerdon deep in the cellars at Mosse, Jean Foillard and Philippe Bornard, so suffice to say it keeps... but when the family noticed that most Cerdon wasn't being drunk within the year of release (the traditional window), they decided to create a new cuvée that would maintain fruit and freshness over a few years.

The solution was to make a 100% Gamay, non-vintage Cerdon, blending across years and taking a higher portion of Gamay to preserve freshness. For those who have been drinking these wines for a long time, Elie says it reminds him of what the estate was producing 20 years ago: fruity, "glou glou" Cerdon that you can knock back with abandon. The goal is to adapt this year to year but have this cuvée represent 60 to 70% of the estate's total production. This first release is a blend of 2019 and 2020. 

For Renardat's classic vintage release (the wine we've always imported), this means two things; 1) there will be a drop in production of this cuvée as most of the Gamay will go to the NV blend and 2) a much larger portion of Ploussard (Poulsard) will go into the vintage blend. Elie reckons the vintage wine has made a considerable leap in quality and complexity. It's certainly more savoury too.

There is also a new sparkling white wine, 'En Blanc Aussi...', which is the family's first foray into sparkling white wine. It's 100% Chardonnay from another Ecocert certified grower in the village, méthode ancestrale so made in the same fashion as their Bugey-Cerdon, but this time fermented to dry in the bottle (so around 10.5%).

Annual production: 12 ha

Mérignat, Bugey, France

View the full range from Renardat-Fâche here.