We’re on our way toward New Year’s Day in the “12 Days of Christmas” countdown with sparkling wine and Champagne, and today,bugey.jpg Monday, I offer this sweetheart of a non-vintage sparkler, “La Cueille” Vin du Bugey-Cerdon (I love this old-fashioned label; let’s hope it’s never modernized) from the producer Patrick Bottex, and no, you don’t rub it on your sad, old wrinkled forehead. This bottle of bubbly conforms to our purpose in this “12 Days of Christmas” series to keep prices lower than usual and (or) to offer alternatives to Champagne by 1. being from a little-known appellation in France; 2. including a little-known grape in its blend; 3. by offering an affordable price, depending on what part of the country you occupy. bugeymap.jpg

Bugey lies in eastern France, not far from the point where Switzerland dips the western tip of Lake Leman (or Lake Geneva) into the French Alps, in the Ain département. Though scattered geographically, the Bugey region is small, totaling only about 1,250 acres of vineyards, mostly planted to white varieties. The wines here, mainly consumed in the region, are classified VDQS, that is, Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure, a tiny category above Vin de Pays that exists as a sort of holding pattern for wines assumed to be elevated to Appellation Côntrolée status, and, in fact, in April 2008, Bugey filed papers for such a change.

The principal grapes in Bugey are the white chardonnay and aligoté, altesse, jacquere and molette, and the red poulsard, mondeuse, gamay and pinot noir.

So, on to today’s sparkling wine. Patrick Bottex’s completely delightful “La Cueille” Vin du Bugey-Cerdon, a blend of 80 percent gamay and 20 percent poulsard, is the pale, pale pink color of Bazooka Bubble Gum. It froths with tiny bubbles and offers aromas of, yes, bubble gum, raspberry, mulberry and stones. It’s slightly sweet, but not dominated by sweetness, and, in fact, after the initial entry, the wine goes dry, bolstered by walloping acidity and layers of limestone and shale, while flavors stay steady in the ripe (and slightly spicy) red fruit range. At about 8 percent alcohol, it won’t do much damage to your sad, old wrinkled synapses. Perfectly appropriate as an aperitif, for those who want a touch of winsome sweetness, or as a light sign-off to a winter dinner. Very Good+. A word about prices. In my neck o’ the woods, this wine sells for an unaccountable $30; nationally, look for $18 to $24.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca.