Cooking to the Wine: Franck Peillot Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu with Crab and Veggie Gratin (#WinePW)

Gotta catch ‘em all!

I think we wine geeks have a tendency to be drawn in by new and unfamiliar grapes like little sparkly gemstones. Oooh, shiny!!! I know this happens to me. Earlier this year I was reading Godforsaken Grapes (discussed in this post here) and the author, Jason Wilson, compares this phenomenon to Pokemon Go and needing to capture all of the various Pokemon.

It just happened that one day I’d been reading a section of the book on Wilson’s adventures through the Alpine regions of eastern France and the grapes he got to try there. Among those described was one called Altesse that I’d never tried before (at least not as a varietal wine). Later that day I went in to work a shift at the wine store and there appeared before me a bottle of Altesse. Well, that seemed serendipitous to say the least. I tried to resist, but of course ––I mean, who was I kidding? –– in the end a bottle ended up coming home with me.

One more in the bag!

This particular bottle comes from Bugey, a small town in the department of Ain halfway between Lyon and Geneva, Switzerland. It’s on the Rhône River and at the southern end of the Jura mountains. In essence, it’s at a crossroads not only between two countries, but also between regions within France as it’s right between Beaujolais, the Rhône, Jura, and Savoie, and it shows influences from all of them. Confusing matters further, it was also a part of Burgundy during medieval times. Bugey is often grouped together with Savoie (this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend topic, and it’s how I found it classified on the importer’s website and elsewhere). However, it turns out that it is really a small independent wine region all on its own. That's the about wine – there's always more to learn!

As convoluted as it all might seem, it actually makes sense that Bugey sometimes gets lumped in with Savoie. The two regions’ vineyards are within just a few kilometers of each other and the wine styles are very similar. They have similar continental climates, and the soils and topography are comparable. The regions also grow similar grapes including Chardonnay (the overall dominant grape in Bugey), Altesse, Aligoté, and Jacquère on the white wine front, and Gamay, Pinot Noir and Mondeuse on the red front. In both areas white wines are dominant. At the same time, they have their own terroir and the mix of influences give the region its own particular color.
This map borrowed from

The vines in Bugey grow on the largely limestone slopes in the foot of the Jura mountains, which have the added benefit of helping with drainage. The vineyards are scattered on the hillsides, mixed among forests and farms. The best sites are on the south-facing slopes where they get lots of sunshine which helps give concentration to the grapes, and the fresh alpine air and altitude ensure they have plenty of freshness.

Bugey was elevated to AOC status in 2009, with certain crus having earned the right to append their name to the end. Today’s wine is a Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu. The Roussette de Bugey AOC is exclusively for wines made from the grape Roussette (aka Altesse) and this one comes specifically from the cru of Montagnieu. (You might also see just Bugey Montagnieu on a label, which would indicate a wine from the same vineyard area, but that AOC covers reds and sparkling whites.) Montagnieu faces southwest and enjoys all the positive factors discussed above, including rocky limestone soils and good drainage, which are important since the region does see a lot of rain.

This map borrowed from

Altesse is known for having body, good acidity, and combination nutty and floral notes. It also has the potential to age very well. The origins of the grape are somewhat disputed. The earliest mention of the grape was in 1774 by a Marquis who stated that it was originally from Cyprus, and that it took its name from one of the Dukes of Savoie (altesse meaning ‘highness’) who brought it back from the orient. It was later linked to Tokaji’s Furmint, however, that theory has been disproved. As romantic as the eastern origin stories are, it’s actually far more likely that it comes from near Lake Geneva. This theory is backed up by the fact that it’s genetically linked with Switzerland’s Chasselas grape.


Today’s wine is the Franck Peillot Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu 2018, made by Franck Peillot. Franck is a 5th generation vine grower and took the operation over from his father who had farmed multiple different crops. He’s grown it to 6.5 hectares, which is still pretty tiny, and the operation is now predominantly focused on viticulture. His plots are isolated and scattered in the hills, surrounded by fields and woods. Some plots are so steep that they can only be worked with a winch and plow. Additionally, many of his vines are trained 2 meters high to ensure they get maximum sunlight in the cold climate. He farms as sustainably as possible under these conditions. 

As mentioned above, Altesse is a synonym for Roussette, so it might seem redundant to have both on the label. In the past, Chardonnay was also allowed in the blend, but Peillot believed that Altesse was a perfect vehicle for expressing the terroir. He preferred to bottle it on its own, and so put Altesse on the label as well. However, as of 2009 all Roussette de Bugey must be 100% Altesse. Notably, his Altesse is the recommended example of Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu in Wine Grapes, which I read only after the fact.

On the day we opened this bottle we picked up notes of lemon, minerals, gold apples, and hints of cheese rinds on the nose. On the palate it was round up front with the tangy citrus and those gold apples being joined by lots of crunchy green ones, as well as stone fruits, lots of minerals, and a bare hint of spicy nutiness. The wine is medium-bodied but there’s a lot of texture to the mouthfeel of the wine that’s creamy or beeswaxy. This gave way to a stony finish with lots of fresh acidity. Greg colorfully described it as a ‘bit of honey slapped down on a slab of marble with a hint of light yellow followers.’ There was also a sunshiny quality to this wine, like standing on an Alpine hilltop on brisk yet sunny day.

Cheese if often recommended as a pairing for Altesse – think of raclette from nearby Switzerland, which is also very popular in this area of France, melted on top of veggies. It’s also recommended as a pairing for garlicky foods, and the minerality is a natural match for seafood. We could see these matches working right away. If I had a plate of Oysters Rockefeller in front of me, I’d love a glass of this alongside it.

The thoughts tickled our fancy and we decided that a dish with a similar mix of components was the way to go. Crab and shrimp in particular kept coming to mind. We decided on crab which I layered between potatoes, cauliflower, and a creamy Mornay sauce, which is really just béchamel with cheese. To finish things off, I browned it all on top to create a gratin.


It was soooooo freak’n good! There are multiple components to this dish so it might seem a little intimidating, but it comes together in a little over an hour, and it is a showstopper. I prepared it in two small casserole dishes intended to be individual servings, but this dish was really decadent. Each of these individual dishes was easily two servings. You can also layer everything in a medium casserole dish and prep it altogether for simplicity.

The body of the wine matched the creamy texture of the food seamlessly, but then the fresh finish cleansed the palate to keep us coming back. All of the flavors harmonized beautifully and complemented each other. This pairing was a clear love match! 


Any cheesy or creamy dish with seafood, chicken, or veggies would be great with this wine: crab melts, shrimp cheese toast, chowder, shrimp and grits, chicken pot pie, etc. Other recommended pairings I found for Altesse include curries, garlic naan, caprese salad, sushi, and grilled veggies.

As far as other wines to pair with this dish, pick medium to full bodied white wines that are balanced by bright freshness. Many Chardonnays would definitely work here, or consider Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige, Lugana, Soave Classico, or a Verdicchio.

As a quick aside, among his other wines Franck Peillot also make a delightful traditional method sparkling wine that is a blend of Altesse, Mondeuse, and Chardonnay.


Taken from the tech sheet on David Bowler Wines.

: 100% Altesse.
Vine Age: Average 30 years old but get up to 60 to 100 years old.
Farming:  Vines are all tended and harvested by hand.
Winemaking: Fermentation is with native yeasts and aging only in steel tank and enamelled cement tanks—there is no wood  used in this cellar. Bottling is generally in March after the vintage.


I paid in the mid to upper twenties for this bottle and it looks like you can find it for less from what I can see on Wine Searcher. I feel like it delivered a lot at the price I paid for it, still making it a Solid Value, but if you can find it for less I’d call it an Overachiever.

Crab and Vegetable Gratin

Crab and Vegetable Gratin

Yield: 4
prep time: 20 Mcook time: 60 Mtotal time: 80 M


  • 2 russet potatoes, sliced into approximately ½ inch slices
  • 10 oz cauliflower florets (Note: I used a bag of pre-cut florets. It’s not a big issue if you use a little more or less.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Splash of white wine
  • 8 oz crab meat
  • Mornay Sauce
  • ½ cup shredded Swiss cheese, such as Gruyère
  • Approximately ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
Mornay Sauce
  • 2 ½ Tbsps butter
  • 3 Tbsps all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups warmed milk (plus more as needed)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 tsps mustard
  • 1/2 grated Swiss cheese, such as Gruyere


How to cook Crab and Vegetable Gratin

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place potatoes and cauliflower florets on baking sheets – use multiple sheets as needed to ensure they’re in a single layer. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until light golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes, tossing half way through. Remove from the oven once ready, then adjust oven temperature to 350°F.
  3. Sauté the garlic and green onions in a medium saucepan on your stovetop with a little olive oil for about a minute over medium heat. Add the white wine and allow it to reduce and season with salt and pepper. Add the crab, toss well to combine, and adjust seasoning. Transfer the crab mixture to a bowl, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
  4. Make the Mornay Sauce: Return the saucepan to the stovetop and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir to combine. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the roux is light caramel yellow, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Try to avoid browning the roux. I was aiming at between a white and blond roux in this case.) Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. (You now have a béchamel sauce.) Stir in the mustard and cheese and whisk until melted. Keep warm until ready to use. If the sauce seems too thick at any point, add a little more milk. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Once the cauliflower is out of the oven, toss it with the crab mixture.
  6. Light grease casserole dishes – you can make one casserole or individual serving as pictured. Spoon a little Mornay Sauce at the base of the casserole dishes, followed by a layer of potato slices. Add another thin layer of sauce, followed by the crab mixture, another layer of sauce. Top with a second layer of potatoes and a final layer of the sauce. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top along with the bread crumbs.
  7. Put the the casserole dishes in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, just until warmed through and melty. Switch the oven to broiler setting and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Carefully remove the pans from the oven and serve hot.
gratin, crab
seafood, dinner, casserole

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Photo credit on all of the food and wine pairing shots in this post to Greg Hudson.

The rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) blogging group is exploring Savoie this month. Check out their posts here:

Additional reading and other sources used for this post:
The Oxford Companion to Wine via
Vins de Bugey
Eater: Bugey: The French Wine Region You’ve Overlooked
Worlds Best Wines: Altesse 
 Cards of Wine: Rousette

 This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, from which I might earn a commission at no cost to you.



  1. Great info on Bugey and Altesse. Will need to hunt for this wine after reading your post. And that crab and veggie gratin looks divine!

  2. So much great information about the Altesse grape variety. I am with you, the more obscure grape varieties are capturing my interest and attention. Your food pairing looks amazing as always!

  3. Oh, wow! What an incredible dish. We will have to try this, it looks amazing.

  4. interesting article, I hadn't heard of Bugey before. Sounds like a good bottle and pairing.

  5. Love the looks of that dish. Reminds me of this artichoke dip I make that would probably go great as well. Love the reference to Pokemon. Funny!

  6. I totally need more crab dishes in my life. Bookmarked! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Crab and Vegetable Gratin looks soooo good and the Altesse seems to be a great match!


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!