Every spring, in April or May, the Bellet appellation of Nice hosts its new vintage tasting. The tasting is important for the vineyards keen to show the wines currently available to the regions sommeliers and wine shop owners as well as journalists.
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 for a number of reasons. I think the wines keep on getting better and better and should be well supported by the region. With only 60ha under vine, the wines of Bellet are a small but important part of the gastronomy of the Cotes d’Azur.
The white wines of Bellet are almost all made from 100% Rolle. The wines differ due to clonal selection, terroir and vinification. Two different styles are followed unoaked and oaked.
As usual, the white 2012 of Domaine St Jean showed the most aromatic fruit character with lots of zesty citrus fruit character and ripe fruit. Cremat’s white 2010 showed more minerality on the nose with long citrus zest acidity balanced by good weight and long length. Toasc’s white 2012 had more floral aromatics giving the wine great charm, while the ripeness of fruit dominates the structural acidity. Domaine de la Source’s two whites from 2012 showed the difference through age of vines. The younger vines produced wines with good acidity, round rich fruit with hints of almonds and weight from ageing sur lees. while the Cuvee L’echappée Belle made in the same way but from 30 year old vines had far greater weight, intensity and and very good acidity. Vinceline and Via Julia Augusta whites were both very closed, possibly due to recent bottling.
Of the oak influenced wines, big, Burgundian style wines were favoured, and as they had spent time in oak were both a year younger and not suffering from youth and recent bottling. Chateau de Bellet White 2011 Cuvée Baron G. 95% Rolle 5% Chardonnay. Aged in oak, soft and round was already showing signs of peaking with soft toffee characters coming to the fore. Clos Nicea’s 2011, aged in 1 year and 3 year old oak had dominating oak aromas and was drying out on palate. Good acidity and up-front freshness helped but overal the wine lacked length and charm. Collet de Bovis’s 2011 en barrique also had dominating oak but its Cuvée Prestige 2011, with 11 months in barrique with MLF and battonage was a successful with creamy smooth fruit, good acidity and was well balanced. The most successful for me was the Clos St Vincent 2011 which was both fermented and aged in barrique giving gentle but not dominating oak character and good weight with a nutty leesy character.
The rosé wines are largely made from Braquet and are very different from the pale rosés of Provence, favouring more fruit and charm than the often too neutral styles of the rest of the region. All the rosés were from the 2012 vintage. Chateau de Bellet Baron G and Cremat both showed very creamy, red fruit, good acidity. Toasc, Collet de Bovis and la Source were less creamy but had crisp ripe red fruit and fresh acidity – la Source in particular had amazingly long mouth-watering acidity. St Vincent had an extra edge of complexity with hints of bitter orange acidity behind the ripe red fruit. Chateau de Bellet and Via Julia Augusta were both too closed from recent bottling to be fully appreciated.
Bellet red wines are largely made up of Folle Noire, with a few having some added Grenache and Bracquet. Three vintages were present: 2011, 2010 and 2009.
The 20011’s were a mixed bag ranging from Cremat’s big black fruit with fresh acidity and muscular tannins, through Clos Nicea’s fresh red fruit with floral aromas and Via Julia Augustas’s fresh raspberry and mouthwatering fresh acidity (even if alcohol was a little too high). Chateau de Bellet”s Baron G and Domaine Vinceline were both very closed showing little fruit and lots of tannins.
The 2010’s were more unified in style with Clos St Vincent, Collet de Bovis, Toasc and Via Julian Augustus’s Cuvée Speciale all showing big black juicy fruit with good chewy tannins and fresh acidity.
The two 2009’s from la Source and Toasc were both full of red, raspberry fruit with hints of fresh green leaves on the nose of the La Source wine. Both showed slightly more mature tannins and very fresh acidity.