After a recent visit to Château de Bellet in the hills above Nice, here's a quick post about this unusual little mice-appellation and a podcast with Château de Bellet about their wines below.
Bellet as a mini-region covers around 650 hectares, although with only about 70 of these under vine.
There are around fifteen family vineyards and numerous smallholdings in Bellet, about a twenty minute drive north of Nice, up some steep hills with stunning views.
Similar to Bandol, which gets around 3000 annual hours of sun, Bellet receives around 2700 of these, with about 800mm per year of rain, which means the vines must struggle, particularly given the summer heat.
Nice itself, and Bellet in particular, has an excellent microclimate given the altitude and the constant winds, the mistral and a northerly wind. This means whilst the vines can struggle, slow maturation can create some freshness and elegance.
The appellation has been around since 1941 but wine has been made in the area since 500 BC, according to Frederique Villiers whom I interviewed there recently.
In more recent centuries the Baron of Bellet, back in the 17th Century, developed the vineyards of the region further. Hence Château de Bellet's top wine is named "Baron G", and in older vintages particularly, is one of the best whites I've had from this region.
According to Château de Bellet, francophile wine fanatic Thomas Jefferson said that he had enjoyed the “great wine” of Nice, discovered during a visit to the region.
They make the usual Red, White and Rose wines one so often finds in the region.
They grow Braquet, Folle Noire and Grenache Noir for their reds, the first two of these very rarely used grape varieties mostly found in South Eastern France, and these grapes are both dry farmed, alongside Chardonnay and mostly Rolle (Vermentino elsewhere) for the whites. The Rose uses Cinsault along with Braquet and Grenache. More detail on the wines here.
Frederique Villiers, in the podcast below, tells me they have been organic since 2013, with a five year conversion period prior to that, and are checked every year, presumably by one of the two agencies responsible in France. They are not using biodynamic methods. Being organic is hard work enough, according to Frederique.
There's a map of the region below and some photos from the tasting and visit a couple of months back. The views are incredibly impressive, and the drive back, when taking a wrong turn and ending up on a one way dirt track, was memorable to say the least.
Here's a useful webpage with some further reading about Bellet as a region.
If you can get to the Chateau, I'd strongly recommend seeing if they have any of the 2008 Baron G white left. It's a stunner. Rich, complex, a touch of citrus and with acres of breadth and meters of depth, it's a real rare find.
Read more about the individual Château's on this excellent blog, which offers a very useful guide.