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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.
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.
Congratulations to Jean-Patrick and Nathalie Pacioselli for a gold medal at the Concours Général Agricole de Paris for their white 2013.
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.
One of the major problems with any northern hemisphere pre-Christmas promotion, is the weather, and 2013 was no exception. I could only go on Saturday 30th – and the weather was – well, to put it mildly, bad! With snow being threatened by the weather forecasters, we drove down in raging winds and rain, wrapped up against the elements. When we arrived in Bellet, it was evident very few other people had chosen to also brave the weather, and instead we passed vast queues of cars trying to get into Lingostiere – the local shopping centre. (Of course the weather was glorious on the Sunday!)
Despite knowing our way around the appellation, the distinct lack of signs that there was indeed a Portes Ouvertes on that weekend plus zero indication of where the vineyards / cellars were and whether or not they were open was a sure turn-off for any casual or new visitor to the area and at one point we did start to doubt whether or not the weekend had indeed been cancelled. Maybe future open days could feature a big bunch of ballons – white, pink and red? at the gate of every domaine open to welcome visitors – it would certainly save on the hesitation of creeping round narrow hairpin bends looking for a vineyard!
The launch of the 2012 White and Rosé vintage and older Reds
Every spring, in April or May, the Bellet appellation hosts its new vintage tasting. The tasting is important for the vineyards keen to show the wines currently available to the region’s sommeliers and wine shop owners as well as journalists. This year’s was held at Domaine de Toasc.
Luckily, in a spring marked by cool, wet days, the weather remained perfect – bright blue skies, sunny but not too hot.
I am a big fan of the wines of Bellet. I think the wines keep on getting better and better and should be well supported by locals. With only 60ha under vine, the wines of Bellet are a small but important part of the gastronomy of the Côte d’Azur. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 24th November was a bright sunny day – auspicious for the launch of the first commercial book on Bellet, written by local winemaker and politician Olivier Bettati, on the terrace of Château de Crémat. He owns Bellet vineyard Clos Nicea.
The launch was packed, attended by dozens of locals – many of whom evidently knew Olivier Bettati – with a festive atmosphere. Each Bellet domaine had a stand where visitors could taste its wine.
The book is big, full of colour photos, descriptions of the region of Bellet, wine-making, details of the vineyards, interviews with friends and their favourite local food and recipes. It is full the author’s love for the city of Nice – Nissa la Bella - and of his interest in its wine and food.
This is very much a ‘coffee table’ book – with two thirds of its pages taken up with photographs.
Bellet, un vignoble dans la ville : Balade dans le patrimoine oenologique et gastronomique Niçois, published by Verlhac Editions, Paris. (Hardback)