We visited the Cerdon area on the Monday after the Percée du Vin Jaune festival weekend following a night’s stay in Bourg-en-Bresse. In the French department of Ain, Cerdon is a wine appellation that is part of the Bugey VDQS region. Bugey is often linked with Savoie, but Cerdon is much closer to the wine region of Jura. All very confusing, as so often in the world of French wine. We only had time for two visits but they were could not have been more instructive and more different.
First up, what is the wine Cerdon? It’s the only rosé sparkling wine made in the Méthode Ancestrale that is an official appellation. (The VDQS designation is part of the official appellation system in France – one that is due to be phased out and the Bugey region hopes desperately, after 10 years of trying, to be elevated to AC). Cerdon Tradition is made usually from 90-100% Gamay, but the Jura grape Poulsard may also be blended in. The colour comes from either direct pressing or more often a short maceration, and the juice is then fermented very cold and very slowly, with fermentation stopped at about 6% alcohol. It’s then bottled and stored in a cold room at around 10°C (50°F) and fermentation continues for around two months. When it’s time to release the wine it is transferred, filtered and re-bottled traditionally in one operation, though larger producers store for a day in-between.
The big tip about Cerdon is that the ideal time to buy it is in the spring or in summer at the latest, because it’s best enjoyed when freshest – as it ages, the pretty and vibrant pink colour fades and it loses some of the lovely strawberry fruit. This lightly bubbly pink wine is a delicious, semi-sweet sparkler with only around 8% alcohol; you could also try it with strawberries. As for the region, it’s a sleepy place but with some dramatic mountain scenery – the vineyards (less than 200 hectares or 500 acres) are some of the highest in France, going up to more than 500 metres (or 1600 feet) altitude.
We visited the largest winery Lingot-Martin who have a very decent standard of quality and whose wines are widely available in French supermarkets in the Rhône Alpes region and they export a little too. They make several styles as well as a Traditional Method Brut and have a good, practical tasting room on the main road. We also went to a tiny producer, Raphaël Bartucci up in the hills of Mérignat. He farms his vineyards organically and makes just one delicious cuvée with sales highly restricted (Just 420 bottles go to the USA each year).
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