Bellet wine appellation
The Bellet wine appellation in France's south-east within the city of Nice is one of the secret appellations beloved by locals but relatively unknown outside the local area.
Bellet is a tiny wine appellation (estimates of the extent of the vineyards range from 32 hectares up to 50 hectares). The vineyards are believed to have been introduced to the area by the Phoenicians possibly as far back as 2000BC.
Bellet was approved for appellation status in 1941. The appellation covers the production of white, rose and red styles.
The reds are based on the local Braquet and Folle grapes as well as some Cinsaut and Grenache. Braquet is the main grape used in the red wines. It is thought to be a grape that is native to the area and is the same as or similar to the Italian Brachetto which is used in the famous Brachetto d'Acqui wines from Piedmont. The other red wine grape is Folle which is sometimes called la Folle Noire. These two grapes combined produce strong, red wines with considerable potential for ageing.
The roses may be made from a mixture of some or all of these grape varieties as well as the white varieties.
The whites can be made from a wide variety of grapes but the most popular variety is Rolle. Rolle is a grape that is native to the area around Nice and is used in the production of the white wines of this appellation. It is the same as, or very similar to, the grape the Italians call Vermentino. Chardonnay, Clairette, Pignerol, Spagnol (also called Mayorquin), Muscat à petits grains and Bourboulenc are also permitted varieties for white wines.
There are approximately 15 producers in the Bellet appellation sharing the small area devoted to vineyards.
Chateau de Bellet
Chateau de Bellet is perhaps the leading domaine and occupies a grand building that is now enclosed within the outer suburbs of Nice. It is home to the de Charnace family who have produced fine wines here for many generations. Their Cuvee Baron G is a flinty, dry white of considerable complexity made entirely from the Rolle grape. The wine is made without the use of pesticides. We first tried it at the nearby Restaurant be Bacon in Antibes where we teamed it with their wonderful bouillabaisse. We also enjoyed a bottle with friends at Per Se in New York where it also teamed beautifully with the sensitive food served there.
Other producers to look for are Les Coteaux de Bellet, Chateau de Cremat, Jean Massa and Clos St Vincent.