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It’s that time of the year again, and after a long absence of one of my favorite winemakers from our shelves, the wines from Dominique Belluard are here again! For those of us familiar with these fantastic wines, rejoice! And for those who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting them before, take note.
Dominique took over this estate in 1988 in the village of Ayze, and farms 20 hectares of vines at around 400m in altitude in the foothills of the French Alps. The soils here are heavy clay with marl and a limestone base (with the exception of his Le Feu parcel that is littered with red, iron-rich stones). Belluard started as a family farm working in true polyculture but came to focus on viticulture as Dominque grew increasingly interested in the local grape variety, Gringet, which was on the brink of extinction. He now has the largest holdings of this grape in the world! He also has small parcels of Altesse and Mondeuse here, and his vineyards are farmed using biodynamic principles with the average age of the vines being between ten- and sixty- years old.
In the cellar Dominique is very particular, concentrating on the use of concrete eggs in addition to stainless steel tanks. He thinks that the natural movement of the wine on its lees (almost like the air within a convection oven) in these tanks is crucial for Gringet, and yields wines of texture, precision, and energy. Fermentations occur with native yeasts, and the only addition is a small dose of SO2 at bottling.
Ayse truly is a visually stunning place, with steep slopes covered in vines rising behind the houses, and Mont Blanc towering over the valley off in the distance. The physical beauty of the region matches that of the wine Dominique is able to make here. The 2014s were all showing incredibly well when tasted in Angers this past month, and I can’t be more thrilled to have them in the shop. Tim Gagnon
*The wines will be arriving early next week.
Les Perles du Mont Blanc is made from the Belluard's biodynamically planted Gringet in the alpine village of Ayse. Fermentation for the base wine is done with indigenous yeast; the second with Champagne yeast and there is no dosage added, making for an exquisitely dry wine with fascinating complexity. The autumnal aromas of pine forest, baking spice, and toasted hazelnuts give a festive quality to this wine. On the palate it is rich, with creamy flavors of bosc pear, wildflower honey, nutmeg and green apple. The invigorating acidity makes this a very versatile, food-friendly wine to pair with roasted fennel, sausage, or cheese. Amanda Bowman
Made from Gringet grown at 450m in elevation, this is serious stuff. It spends three years on the lees which results in a rich and textured wine, with delicate aromatics. Orange blossom, pear skin, and granny smith apple rise from the glass, while the palate is much more mineral. It is quite powerful, and would give any Champagne a run for the money in terms of complexity. Tim Gagnon
Dominique’s Altesse shows a much more delicate side of this grape than most are familiar with, and I think this is a testament to his careful winemaking process. The vines in this parcel are quite young, and the original vines were sourced from the Dupasquier family in Jongieux, further south in the Savoie. There are very pretty almond, tangerine, honeysuckle, and peach skin aromas filling the nose, and although it is quite round on the palate, it maintains a crazy amount of freshness. A dense mineral core gives way into hints of stone fruits and nuts with a bracing, long, honey-tinged finish. It’s as pleasing viscerally as it is mentally. Tim Gagnon
This cuvee is made with Gringet sourced from two parcels, one being rich in yellow marl and the other with more broken-down limestone. It spends about six months aging in concrete eggs (separated by each different terroir) before being blended together in stainless steel tanks. It is exquisite on the nose with purple wildflower, green tea, honeydew melon, citrus, earthy blossom, and a distinct note of red berries. The palate is pure and sharp with a deep minerality, stone fruits, and a vigorous acidity. I can never get enough of this wine. Tim Gagnon
Called Le Feu (The Fire) for the bright red, iron-rich clay that litters the incredibly steep vineyards, this is Dominique’s top wine. It is his only single-parcel Gringet cuvee and the vines are situated at 450m in altitude. On the nose it is ethereal and shows bright grapefruit zest, jasmine, and sage with a hint of tart red berries. As far as mountain wines go, this is definitely something special. The palate is textured and mineral with orchard fruits, a gentle salinity, and a long, citrus-tinged finish. There is no doubt that this wine can age, and it is certainly drinking wonderfully now! Tim Gagnon