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