A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mondeuse Noire - Bugey, France

It's easy to forget sometimes that there's more to France than Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, the Loire Valley and the Rhone Valley. It's possible for one to spend their entire life trying to dig to the bottom of any of those regions. These are certainly the best known and most prestigious regions, but wine is made all over France and there are a few areas that are still a bit off the beaten track when it comes to worldwide recognition of their wines. Savoy is one of those regions, and just northwest of Savoy is Bugey.

Bugey is a small region located in the southeast of the Ain department of France. Historically, Bugey has had ties to both Burgundy and Savoy, being a subsection of each for a period of time. For many years, wines from Bugey were classified as VDQS which is the little used classification for wine regions in the process of being promoted from Vin de Pays to AOC status. Promotion to AOC status was finally granted in May of 2009. The total vineyard area for Bugey is 500 hectares, or about 1,250 acres. There's a cool online map here that you can use to see where the different producers are located within Bugey.

Much like Savoy, the bulk of production here is white wine. The wine we are concerned with here, however, is a red wine produced from the Mondeuse Noire grape. Mondeuse is grown in both Savoy and Bugey, though it is not widely planted in either of those regions. It is thought that there are less than 500 acres in all of France and I guess there are plantings of it among the New World wine countries, but it's certainly not planted in any significant numbers. It was thought for many years that Mondeuse was the same grape as the Italian Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso, but recent DNA profiling has shown that they are two distinct varieties. There is a Mondeuse Blanche, but it's also unrelated to Mondeuse Noire (though, interestingly, Mondeuse Blanche is one of the parents, along with Dureza, of Syrah).

I was lucky enough to find a bottle of 2007 Domaine Thierry Thissot Bugey Mataret for $17 (if you can read French, here's a site with some information on the fairly young estate). In the glass, this wine was ruby colored with medium saturation. There were aromas of red plums, raspberries, redcurrant, tart cherry and a bit of spice and damp leaves. In the mouth, this was medium bodied with very high acidity and faint tannins. There were raspberry, redcurrant and tart plum flavors with a bit of a metallic taste kind of lurking in the background along with a bit of earthy spice. This was bright and juicy and pretty refreshing for a red wine. It was somewhat reminiscent of a cool weather Pinot Noir or a Blaufrankish. From what I was able to read on the website about this winery, this estate was founded in 2001, so the lightness here could be due to young vines, or it could just be a cool-weather zone. From what I've read, the versions from Savoy are a bit heftier than this and some of them can be kind of gamey, but this is nice and very enjoyable. I would pair this the same way I'd pair a light Pinot Noir and just stay away from heavy red meats or grilling/broiling applications.

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