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With the way things are going, I think that is something we can all get behind, especially when the Gringet grapes are in the hands of Dominique Belluard. In 1988, Dominique took over his family’s 10-hectare estate, nestled in the village of Ayse in the Savoie region of France, in the foothills of the French Alps, with Mont Blanc less than 30 km away. At the time, the farm was operating in true polyculture, but ultimately Dominique's fascination with the local grape Gringet soon took over, and he has spent the past two decades not only helping to bring the variety back from the brink of extinction (he now owns half of the world’s Gringet vines), but single-handedly elevating it from a grape used to make industrial, sparkling plonk at the local cooperative to one capable of becoming some of the most compelling wines available, though always in extremely limited quantities. Lovers of these magnificent wines know that this is one of the most exciting times of the year, and if you haven’t had them before, I urge you to get your hands on a bottle.
Dominique’s vines range from ten to sixty years in age and are planted in clay soils with broken-down limestone (save for Le Feu, named after the bright red iron-rich stones that cover the vineyard), on slopes that are 300-450 meters in altitude. Farming practices follow biodynamic principles, though he is not certified. Winemaking is equally thoughtful, meaning only native yeasts are used, no fining, no filtration, and only minimal sulfur used at bottling. Dominique is committed to using concrete eggs for his fermentations as he believes that naturally occurring currents inside, akin to the air in a convection oven, act as a way to stir the lees without physically stirring them, and add to the texture and stability of the wine. He also uses stainless steel and fiberglass tanks, mostly for blending the wine before bottling, and even makes a rare wine from Mondeuse aged entirely in amphora.
2015 was hot and dry in much of France. Luckily for Dominique, rain came later in the season to keep sugar levels in check, resulting in wines that are balanced in alcohol, and that are pure, precise, and simply beautiful. As I said before, these don’t last long, so make sure to get yours. Tim Gagnon
*These wines arrive Friday, 2/17.
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. It is quite powerful, and would give any Champagne a run for the money in terms of complexity. 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 cuvée and the vines are situated at 450m in altitude. 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. Tim Gagnon
This cuvée 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. Tim Gagnon