New Beginnings at Château de Bellet

While I was giving a tasting of Bellet wines on a super-yacht in Monaco, Chateau de Bellet held their opening night for their new cellars and tasting room.

Fellow blogger Chrissie McClatchie of Riviera Grapevine attended and wrote up the event for me.

“Back in 2012, it was announced that the acclaimed Nice vineyard Château de Bellet had been sold to La Française Real Estate Manager (REM), a management company with a demonstrated interest in the wine industry, counting over 30 French vineyards in their portfolio.

REM had acquired this historic vineyard, so intertwined with the history of Bellet wine itself, along with another vineyard in the small Niçois appellation, Les Côteaux de Bellet.

Old postcard showing chapel of Chateau de Bellet

Old postcard showing chapel of Chateau de Bellet

Château de Bellet had been the family vineyard of the Barons of Bellet for over four centuries and the sale not only marked the end of an era but it also heralded the first foray of corporate ownership in the appellation.

Three years on and the handover is REMseemingly complete. Grandson of the last Barons of Bellet, and staunch upholder of tradition in the appellation, Ghislain de Charnacé, spent two years consulting with the incoming wine-making team and 2014 was the first vintage without his guidance. New vines have been planted, a more modern logo has been commissioned, and, after two years of renovation and construction, a revamped tasting room, new wine cellar and function room was finally unveiled one evening in early June.

The Chateau de Bellet chapel

The Chateau de Bellet chapel

Much interest and intrigue has surrounded the project and an air of anticipation prevailed in the lead up to the re-opening. The de Charnacé family have retained their private residence, the ‘Château’ of Château de Bellet, which dates from the 17th century, but the land surrounding it, including the picturesque hilltop chapel, is now the property of REM.

Built in 1873, this chapel, for so long being the symbol of the vineyard but one which remained closed off to everyone but family, is now the boutique and tasting room for the new site. After careful restorations, and some minor renovations, the space has been de-consecrated and now makes for the most atmospheric tasting setting of the entire appellation.

Sunset over the Mediterranean as a backdrop

Sunset over the Mediterranean as a backdrop

To provide a modern contrast, an 800m², purpose built cellar has been constructed over two floors just below, with state of the art gravity fed wine-making equipment and a large function room which will undoubtedly prove popular for weddings and seminars.

The theme for the re-opening celebrations was ‘Rock and Rolle’, a nod to the great white grape of Bellet, also known as Vermentino across the border in Italy. With the current thirst for Provence rosé in the wine world, it’s easy to forget that Bellet is first and foremost a white wine appellation. At Château de Bellet, white wine accounts for nearly half of the total production.

The Chapel

The Chapel

Guests were welcomed on the terrace outside of the Chapel, itself all lit up for the evening. A series of gourmet stands were set up to give the event an upmarket night market feel, serving a variety of epicurean delights from freshly flame grilled prawns and cuttlefish skewers to lobster risotto and cêpes raviolis.

Intertwined with the food stalls were the stands devoted to the stars of the show, the wines. The current release vintages of the property’s three prestige wines, the Cuvée Baron G white 2013, red 2012 and rosé 2014, were on the menu with the winemaker and the Château team on hand to introduce their wines.

As the sun set the Paris based director of REM’s vineyard investments, Patrick Ribouton, made a heartfelt speech, singling out for particular praise the Bordeaux winemaker Eric Boissoneot, who has held a vital consultation role in REM’s Bellet interests since day one.

Illuminated pathways through the vineyards of Bellet

Illuminated pathways through the vineyards of Bellet

The formalities were brief and from there guests were left to soak up the atmosphere as the rock and rolle theme came to the fore, with a live band ensuring that revellers were entertained into the early hours of the morning.

Château de Bellet is now open for visitors from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm. A guided visit of the cellars and tasting of your choice of four wines is €20.”

Thanks Chrissie!

A winter’s day at the Bellet “Portes Ouvertes” open weekend

Bellet vineyards host two open day ‘Portes Ouvertes’ weekends a year – one in May with the new vintage, the other at the end of November – to provide an opportunity for customers to visit each of the domaines in a festive atmosphere and taste Bellet wines in-situ. We went along for the second day. Despite the heavy grey clouds and blustery winds, the weather remained dry, so there was a good turnout of visitors. The Saturday had been less well attended, possibly due to a rugby match in the stadium below the vineyards in Bellet.

portes ouvertes Bellet

Tasting at Domaine de la Source

We started at Domaine de la Source where the Dalmasso family were all there serving wine, preparing and serving lunch and chatting to clients. This great family atmosphere typifies this estate.

With slices of pissaladière and socca fresh from the oven, both matching well with their gutsy white 2013 (100% Rolle) and fresh, mineral rosé 2013 (100% Braquet).

 

Eric Dalmoasso making socca and heating polenta

Eric Dalmasso making Socca

 

The lunch provided to clients was a brilliant idea as Bellet, a wine producing region, is in the strange situation of having very few restaurants, and even fewer offering Bellet wines. So, on Sunday especially, visitors are hard pushed to find anywhere to eat, and – instead of staying in Bellet for the whole day – may return home.

 

 

 

wine gang at source

Pierre, Becky, me, Chrissie and David

 

I had arranged to meet Becky and Pierre of Nice Wine Tours and Chrissie McClatchy of Riviera Grapevine for lunch here. To accompany the polenta with tomato sauce and sausages, we had their red 2012 wine (largely Folle Noir), full of ripe red berry and plum fruit and ripe supple tannins. With the dessert of fig and apple tart, we had coffee with Domaine de la Source’s eau de vie.

chrissie and becky

Becky and Chrissie chatting at Chateau de Bellet

We then drove up the road to Chateau de Bellet, which, since its purchase by La Française Real Estate Manager (FREM), is no longer a family domaine. Ghislain de Charnacé, the former owner of Chateau de Bellet and his father have been leading lights in the appellation since 1941.

I had been hoping that we would get to see some of the new rooms being built by FREM but the tasting was in the elegant tasting room by the chateau, I tasted the three wines from the Chateau de Bellet’s “Baron G” range: white 2012 (mainly Rolle), rosé 2013 (Braquet) and red 2012 (largely Folle Noir). The white, with fresh apple and nut fruit and crisp acidity, was more delicate than that of La Source, the pale rosé more structural, while the red 2012 was a little closed on the fruit (these will re-emerge) and had fine elegant and firm tannins.

Our final visit was to Domaine St Jean, run by Nathalie and Jean-Patrick Pacioselli.

Nathalie aims for intense concentrated fruit in her wines, even if this means a smaller yield. Their rosé 2013 (Braquet) shows wonderful floral fragrant fruit typical of Braquet when allowed to fully express its character. Their unoaked white 2013 has ripe apple, cream and nutty fruit. With the 2012 vintage they have started to age some of their white wine in oak. The 2012 was matured in new barrels and is still very oaky, needing more time to mature. I asked Jean-Patrick for a cask sample of next year’s oaked white (2013) to get an idea of the next release. This was less oaky, as half is aged in new barrels, half in those used for the 2012, and was better balanced with good weight and creamy nutty fruit.

st Jean chocolate 2

A selection of chocolates from Choco Mon Amour

The Pacioselli’s have an artistic eye when it comes to the various partnerships and promotions they organise. For today they arranged for a chocolate-maker to offer chocolates matched to the domaine’s red wine.

Sara Kitsas, whose husband is chocolatier at Choco Mon Amour, was there to show us their chocolates. Surprisingly the red wine (2012, 60% Folle Noir and 40% Grenache) – despite its dry, tannic structure – went superbly with the bitter dark chocolate, which accentuated the cherry confit and spice character of the red wine.

St Jean red wine with a chocolate "cheese"

St Jean red wine with a chocolate “cheese”

 

Domaine St Jean are marketing a number of gift packs with the red wine and chocolate. I particularly liked the fake cheese board – with the cheeses made of chocolate.

 

 

The three main varieties found in the wines of Bellet are Braquet, Folle Noir and Rolle.

See also Chrissie’s blog on the varietal make up of the wines.

 

Bellet ‘Portes Ouvertes’ 29-30 November 2014

Next weekend (29 and 30 November 2014) the vineyards of Bellet will be opening their doors (from 10h – 18h) for visitors to come and taste their wines and make their selections for the Christmas festivities and gifts.

A wet, but warm, welcome at the 2013 Bellet Portes Ouvertes

Last year it rained solidly throughout the weekend, making the dash from car to cellar a very wet experience, so I am very much hoping that this year will be a slightly drier event.

Most domaines will be offering tastings of their current vintages of rosé and white wines from the 2013 vintage, with some older, oak aged whites and red wines of various vintages.

 

 

domaine de la source voucher

Gift voucher from Domaine de la Source

 

 

 

 

The brother and sister team of Carine and Eric Dalmasso at Domaine de la Source are offering socca and roast chestnuts with their wines, They also have gift vouchers for wines and a vineyard visit.

 

St Jean chocolate bottle

Red wine and chocolate on offer at Domaine St Jean

 

 

 

 

Nathalie and Jean-Patrick Pacioselli at Domaine St Jean are offering a gift package of a bottle of their red wine with a chocolate wine bottle made by a local chocolatier…. looking forward to tasting that combination!

Many vineyards also have their own olive oil as well.

 

 

 

The route round Bellet forms a neat circuit on the hills above Lingostiére and St Isidore.

map

The Bellet route des vins on the hills north of Nice

 

 

 

New Vintage 2013 Tasting of the wines of AC Bellet

The annual new 2013 vintage tasting for the small (around 60ha) appellation of Bellet is always extremely civilised. With only twelve domaines, each showing three to five wines, it is easy to taste all the wines in one morning, to chat to the producers and the other tasters, largely sommeliers working in the hotels, restaurants and wine shops of the Cotes d’Azur, and enjoy a light lunch together. Very few, if any, tasters come from outside the region and the wines of this appellation remain very much the wines of the wine connoisseurs of Nice.
This year was no exception. Set in the conference/tasting room at Chateau de Crémat, hosted by Cornelis and Jarmilla Kamerbeek, the room was flooded with spring sunlight and tasters could look over Nice, reminding us that this is very much an urban appellation. Views to the south of the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Alps to the north were reminders of two of the major influences on the microclimate of the region. Despite the early date (24th March) for this year’s event, it was warm and sunny enough for lunch outside on the terrace.


The tasting itself was of particular interest due to the weather in 2013. A cold, wet and long spring which had set ripening back by two to three weeks delaying harvest time into the wetter autumn season. Quantity was down, how were the wines?

Bernard Nicoletti of Domaine de Toasc, said that Rolle (Vermentino) vines often have two bunches in each main bunch. In a good year they are harvested together, with the smaller, interior bunch providing the acidity. In 2013, the extra acidity was not required, so in some cases, two harvests were carried out when the second bunch was riper. The winemaker at Chateau de Bellet mentioned that unusually, instead of all the Rolle being harvested before the late-ripening Braquet, in many cases the Rolle was harvested after the Braquet.
Overall, the impression of the wines from this tasting was one of freshness.

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Bellet 2013 Vintage – Annual Tasting

The annual professional Bellet tasting of the new white and rosé wines from the 2013 vintage as well as the rest of the Bellet wines currently available will be held on March 24th 2014 at Chateau de Crémat.

Last summer was cool and damp until June, delaying ripening by upto two weeks, with some very hot spells in July and August. Due to delayed ripening, harvest was set back to late September early October when threats of rain further threatened the harvest. It will be interesting to see how these wines taste.

Domaine de la Source June 2013

Domaine de la Source June 2013

 

A tough January weather-wise

Heavy rain over the weekend of 18 to 20 January 2014 between the Italian port of Genoa and the French port of Toulon led to flooding, landslides and destruction. Many roads were closed due to either being washed away of landslides closing the route.

Vineyards on the hillsides of Dolceacqua and Bellet saw water cascading over the dry-stone walled terraces – revealing which vineyards had well-maintained walls and terraces.

In Bellet, where housing and non-cultivated land is intersperced with cineyards the situation was less simple. In some cases mud landslides from above the vineyards came washing down leaving a trail of destruction. Domaine St Jean, which has three plots of land scattered around the appellation was at the receiving end of one of these landslides which swept into the vineyard destroying young vines. See the pictures below.

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