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We greet the arrival of Domaine Belluard each year like we welcome the return of a traveling friend. Eager to know how the vintage fared and to revel in the stories each wine tells. The 2017s have much to say! The concentration of flavors and aromas describe the catastrophically-low yields of the vintage (with production down 70% due to the changing climate). But, as always, the deft texture and balanced flavors articulate the patience, precision, and care Dominique has in the cellar. This is another fantastic vintage that we are lucky and delighted to be able to share with you! Amanda Bowman
A little backstory...
As far as we know, Belluard is the only winemaker currently bottling Gringet commercially. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson established that (as of 2008) there are 64 acres of Gringet in the world, and of those, 54 belong to Dominique. Before it became nearly extinct, the fate of this lively cultivar was to make sparkling plonk or become part of industrial blends for the local cooperative - a far cry from the proud expression that we have come to expect from Dominique. His mission to elevate this obscure variety began in 1988 when he took over his family's 10-hectare estate, nestled in the village of Ayse in the Savoie region of France.
Dominique’s vines range from ten to sixty years old and are planted in clay soils with broken-down limestone on the foothills of Mont Blanc. Though the winery is not certified organic, his farming practices follow strict biodynamic principles. Winemaking is equally meticulous, meaning only native yeasts are used, no fining, no filtration, and only minimal sulfur added at bottling. Dominique prefers concrete eggs for his fermentations as he believes the shape promotes a natural movement of the wine inside and this acts as a way to stir the lees without physically stirring them, thus adding texture and overall stability to the wine. He also uses stainless steel and fiberglass tanks, mostly for blending the wine for Les Alpes.
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Les Perles du Mont Blanc is made from biodynamically farmed Gringet and spends two years on the lees before disgorgement. 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. This bottling is richer than in years past, but still intensely mineral with heady aromas of pine forest, baking spice, and toasted walnuts. The palate is decadent, with creamy flavors of pear, wildflower honey, nutmeg and bright lemon curd. The invigorating acidity makes this a versatile, food-friendly wine to pair with roasted chicken, oysters, charcuterie, or cheese. Amanda Bowman
'Mont Blanc' is named for the snow-capped mountain 30km away from Dominique's winery. This cuvée is built to age, but that requires personal discipline. 100% Gringet from vines planted at 450m elevation, the 2015 was aged for three years on the lees before disgorgement. The delicate nose offers elegant floral aromas and comes across as quite austere at first. Within an hour the nose blossoms with generous notes of honeysuckle, orange zest, almond skins and orchard fruits. The palate has exquisite cut with powerful minerals driving fresh pear and apple flavors. An excellent vintage that should shine in 2-3 years. Amanda Bowman
"Les Alpes" is a blend of two parcels - one close to Dominique's home on marl soils and the other rich in limestone. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete eggs before it's blended in tank and bottled with minimal sulfur. It is usually the lighter of Dominique's still Gringet bottlings. The 2017 shows pretty mountain flowers, ripe and tangy pineapple flesh with faint notes of orange blossom on the nose. The palate is textured with salty stones and tart acidity which showcases the ripe flavors of tropical fruit and fresh herbs. There is a lively energy to this wine that makes it great for early drinking or short term cellaring. Amanda Bowman
"Le Feu" comes from Dominique's oldest, low-yielding Gringet vines planted on steep, iron-rich slopes at 450m above sea level. The 2017 shows a touch riper than the 2016, with a greater concentration of aromas and flavors. The nose shows deft notes of wild herbs, verbena, and orange peel. The palate offers fleshy peach interspersed with stone, fresh sage, honey and citrus all buoyed by incredibly well-knit acidity. A powerful vintage that is delicious in its youth but should age gracefully. Amanda Bowman
(Tasted from 750ml) "Le Feu" comes from Dominique's oldest, low-yielding Gringet vines planted on steep, iron-rich slopes at 450m above sea level. The 2017 shows a touch riper than the 2016, with a greater concentration of aromas and flavors. The nose shows deft notes of wild herbs, verbena, and orange peel. The palate offers fleshy peach interspersed with stone, fresh sage, honey and citrus all buoyed by incredibly well-knit acidity. A powerful vintage that is delicious in its youth but should age gracefully. Amanda Bowman