Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Petillant Naturel from Bugey Cerdon

    March 18th, 2015

    Raphael Bartucci, Bugey Cerdon

    Raphael Bartucci in front of the Caves Augé in Paris, with some

    of the top winemakers from Alsace, Jura and Savoie

    When I first moved to the United States, there was a lot of Brut Champagne, California sparkling wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, cava, prosecco, and the odd crémant. Now, there are pétillants from every corner of France, a prevalence of non-dosé Champagne, more adventurous domestic bubbly and even fizzy red wines. Return to Terroir carries a wide selection of sparkling wine, but no doubt the most unusual is Raphaël Bartucci’s Bugey-Cerdon.

    Bugey Cerdon is made around the town of Cerdon (top left of this map) within the Bugey region (in yellow).  Bugey wines can be white, red, rose, still or sparkling. Bugey Cerdon wines are only sparkling roses made in the “méthode

    ancestrale” (spontaneous fermentation in the bottle)


    Although it has only been an AOC since 2009, wine has been made in Bugey for centuries. It was the birthplace of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the famous French gastronome and author of The Physiology of Taste . Located between Beaujolais to the west, Jura to the north and Savoie to the east, Bugey Cerdon share some of the same grapes.. However, the style of sparkling that Bugey-Cerdon is known for, slightly sweetand always rosé, is unique to this area.

    Bugey is located in the foothills of the Alps, between

    Beaujolais (west), Jura (north) and Savoie (east)

    Raphaël Bartucci’s parents left Italy during its fascist rule. Eventually, they settled in the Moselle Valley in northeastern France. In spite of the national borders, wine is made throughout the valley, from Germany, (where we know it by the German spelling,  Mosel), through Luxembourg, where  it is the major wine growing area and into France. However, it was the summer vacations to Bugey when Raphaël was a child that inspired his dream to move to this area and become a farmer, which led him into viticulture.

    Raphael in his vineyards

    Raphaël knew early on that working conventionally was not for him. Of course the wine he strove to make was hardly conventional and he was dissatisfied with the results. Luckily, he had the good fortune to meet Marcel Lapierre, the famed organic Beaujolais producer, and Pierre Overnoy, a producer of equal importance in Jura. They schooled Raphaël in the principles and realities of natural wine making and he slowly converted his land, just a few rows at first, to organic viticulture. He’s been Ecocertified since 1997.

    Village of Merignat where the winery and vineyards are located

    Today, he has just over five acres of vines on ten different plots. Gamay is the mainstay but Raphaël also grows Poulsard and Chardonnay. Given how little land he has to work with, there is not a lot of wine produced. He puts all of his energy into one bottling: a vintage dated* méthode ancestrale wine, and it is superb.

    2013 Raphaël Bartucci Bugey-Cerdon

    80% Gamay, 15% Poulsard, 5% Chardonnay

    Raphaël manually harvests using 25 kg boxes. The grapes are then quickly brought to the winery basement, twice daily, and gently pressed. The must is racked into tank where two thirds of the fermentation occurs. When it has about 70 grams per liter of natural sugar, it is “roughly filtered, bottled and capped.” The wines are then stored upright. This is very important as it helps slow down the fermentation process and create the right amount of effervescence so that the wine is bubbly but not too aggressive. It usually takes three months. No sulfites are added.

    Fermentation is naturally arrested by the carbon dioxide created when it is at 50 grams sugar per liter.  As a result the finished wine is low in alcohol. The only filtration occurs when it is transferred from “bottle to bottle.” There, in a secure environment so the CO2 cannot escape, it is capped and caged.

    Raphaël’s version of Bugey-Cerdon essentially defines what this wine should be: delicate bubbles, slightly sweet with floral aromas, strawberry and apple fruit grounded by refreshing acidity and earthy notes.

    $16.20 on 3 cases. $15.50 on 5 or by the glass. 

    * indicated by a lot number on the back of the bottle. Indeed, the AOC Bugey Cerdon doesn’t allow the mention of the vintage on the label, hence encouraging blends of different vintages. However, Raphael’s Bugey Cerdons are always made of one vintage only.