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The wines of Franck Peillot, Bugey

Bugey is a little known French wine region (a VDQS) that’s nestled in a low series of hills at the tip of the Jura. Usually, it is linked to the Savoie region because of its geographical proximity. Franck Peillot (above) is one of the quality leaders of the region, and specializes in making wines from the Altesse variety (also known as Roussette, a relative of Tokaji’s Furmint, apparently).

Half of his production is the traditional sparkling wine of the region, but his main focus has been on still wines.

As well as white wines (from Altesse and Chardonnay), he makes reds from Pinot Noir and Mondeuse. He bought a vineyard with Gamay and Pinot Noir in it from his uncle in the mid-1980s, but it was only the Pinot he was really interested in. For the first few years he used it to make sparkling wine from, but then decided to make red wine. It’s the Pinot Droit clone, which grows straight up, and which the Champenois were using because it is easy to grow and has high yields. ‘The first year we used it the yields were high and the wine was bad’, Franck reports. ‘People said we’d never be able to make a red Burgundy style from Droit, but we do make a nice fruity wine’. He does an 8 day maceration in open tanks, and doesn’t use SO2 until the end of malolactic. He makes a starter yeast culture to begin fermentation and then adds whole bunches.

In 2007 Franck decided to have no malolactics in either his Chardonnay or Altesse. ‘It’s harder for us to have malolactic than not to’, he explains. ‘It’s a problem trying to get malo going: sometimes we have to warm up a small quantity of wine and use it as a starter’.  

Franck Peillot Chardonnay 2007 Bugey, France
This is crisp, fresh and has good acidity. It’s fruity and bright with some minerality and a fresh finish. 87/100

Franck Peillot Altesse 2007 Bugey, France
Lovely expressive nose with herby, minerally depth. Lots going on here. It’s lively, complex, fruity and bright with good definition and citrussy fruitiness. Franck explains that it’s actually an unusually fruity year for this wine. 89/100

Franck Peillot Altesse 2006 Bugey, France
Lovely elegant, smooth nutty, herby nose with some minerally notes. The palate is nutty and waxy and broad. Very expressive with a mineral finish. Lovely stuff. 90/100

Franck Peillot Montagnieu NV Bugey, France
This is 50% of Franck’s production. It is a sparkling wine that has been ‘The Champagne of the Lyonnais’ for 400 years – a natural sparkling wine that pre-dates Champagne. Franck’s version is 20–30% Altesse with the balance Chardonnay. He wanted to do a 100% sparkling Altesse, but it isn’t as nice as the blend. This is tight with fresh, bracing fruit and a bit of herbiness. 86/100

Franck Peillot Réserve de Jean NV Bugey, France
Another sparkling wine, this is quite warm and complex with some toastiness and depth. Attractive and fruity. 87/100

Franck Peillot Pinot Noir 2007 Bugey, France
Smooth, elegant and light with sweet cherry fruit nose. Expressive and pure. The palate has light cherry fruit with lovely freshness and purity. 89/100

Franck Peillot Mondeuse 2006 Bugey, France
Bright cherry fruit nose is smooth, elegant and fruity. The palate is open with some herbiness and lovely dense fruit, with some spicy tannins. Quite structured, with lovely dense, vivid, expressive fruit. Fantastic. 91/100

Wines tasted 05/08  
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