Bugey is a winegrowing region in the Ain administrative department of eastern France. The area is covered by two appellations: Bugey, which covers red, white, rosé and sparkling wines from a range of grape varieties, and the more-specific Roussette du Bugey appellation which covers the rich, Altesse-based white wines made in the area.
The area covers the very southern limits of the Jura mountain range, which is also home to the Jura wine region to the north. The Rhone river loops around the southern end of Bugey, before flowing south to the famous vineyards of the Rhone. Lyon lies some 30 miles (50km) to the west, and the alpine vineyards of Savoie are directly to the east. While not technically connected under French wine law, Bugey is often grouped together with Savoie as they are close both geographically and in terms of the wine styles produced.
The topography and geology of Bugey is very similar to that of Savoie. The vineyards are grouped in clusters, divided from one another by various mountains and ridges, which rise steeply above their corresponding valleys. The best sites are on the south-facing slopes, where the combination of cool sub-alpine air, a sunny aspect and free-draining soils (mostly based on limestone) provides the best chance for the grapes to achieve optimal ripeness.
More than half of all Bugey wines are white. Chardonnay is the principal grape variety of the Bugey appellation, and must make up at least 70% of Bugey still white wines. Smaller portions of Aligote, Altesse and Jacquere are permitted in the blend, and the sparkling wines may have larger portions of Jacquere and Mondeuse Blanche (locally known as Molette). Bugey reds are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir and Savoie's characteristic Mondeuse. An increasing percentage of Bugey is varietal, labeled with the variety name after the appellation title. Roussette du Bugey is varietal by law: the only permitted grape variety is Altesse.
The two Bugey appellations were promoted to AOC status in 2009 after 50 years as VDQS, fuelling the local desire to be recognized as independent from Savoie. Both appellations have several crus with a distinctive associated style or set of styles for which it is known; the most famous is the sparkling pink wine of Cerdon. The village of Montagnieu is a cru for both the Bugey and Roussette de Bugey appellations, while the steeply sloping Manicle vineyard is like an alpine outpost of Burgundy, producing only varietal wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Virieu-le-Grand, near Manicle, is recognized as a cru of Roussette du Bugey due to the particularly high quality of its Altesse-based wines.
The peak of Bugey's wine production was in mid-19th Century, when vineyards represented one-quarter of the area's agricultural production. At that time, the commune of Belley alone was home to around 17,000 acres (7000ha) of vines. The arrival of phylloxera in the 1860s decimated wine production here, as it did across Savoie and in Jura to the north. Statistics from the 2005 vintage show that vine plantings are now increasing again, although they still amount to only around 1235 acres (500ha). The local consumer base is well established and only a very small percentage of the wine ever leaves the region. However, the United States is a growing market for both Bugey's wines and those of the wider Savoie region.