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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Bellet Portes Ouvertes 30 November and 1 December 2013

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!)

Welcome and information desk in St Roman de Bellet for the Portes Ouvertes

 

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!

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2013 Annual Bellet Vintage Tasting

The launch of the 2012 White and Rosé vintage and older Reds

The tasting at Domaine de Toasc

Tasting Collet Bovis at Domaine de Toasc

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.  Continue reading

Launch of Book on Bellet Wines

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.

Olivier Bettati at the launch of his book

Olivier Bettati at the launch of his book

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)

Sale of Château de Bellet

In one of the most spectacular transactions to have taken place within the Bellet appellation, the 13 hectares of vineyards of the region’s oldest and most renowned domaine, Château de Bellet, have been sold, writes Elizabeth Gabay MW.

Château de Bellet has been owned the family of Ghislain de Charnacé since the Renaissance, and is a producer of some of the best wines from Bellet, a small AOC in southeastern Provence, near Nice.

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2008 Annual Bellet Vintage Tasting

Last week I attended the launch of the new 2008 vintage of white and rose Bellet wines at the Château de Bellet. Eleven domaines were present in the tasting room of the château with views over the hills of Bellet down towards the sea. Unfortunately it was an overcast day with grey blustery clouds threatening rain, so not quite the dream picture of the Cote d’Azur.

The eleven domaines were Château de Bellet, Château de Crémat, Domaine de Toasc, Domaine de la Source, Clos St Vincent, Domaine Vinceline, Domaine Augier, Côteaux de Bellet, Via Julia-Augusta, Domaine St Jean and Collet de Bovis.

After tasting so much Côtes de Provence rosé the week before, the difference with the Bellet rose’s was quite noticeable with the more pronounced red fruit and floral character of the Braquet showing through. Château de Bellet, Clos St Vincent and Domaine de la Source were especially good; interestingly all three were 100% Braquet.

Of the whites Via Julia-Augusta, Clos St Vincent, Domaine de la Source, Château de Bellet and Château de Crémat were good with crisp fresh fruit and full creamy character.

Of the reds, far fewer stood out. Côteaux de Bellet 2007, Clos St Vincent 2007, Domaine de la Source 2006 and Château de Bellet 2007 were the best.

The hot question on everyone’s lips is the debate over rosé – should winemakers be allowed to mix red and white wine to make rosé?