2010 Domaine Belluard Les Alpes
Reveling in Obscurity
In all likelihood, you've never heard of "Ayse" or its local, rather obscure "Gringet" grape... after all, there are only 22 hectares of it planted. The obscurity is too bad, because Dominique Belluard works here, with this grape, and his is one of the most singular, compelling wines around.
Ayse is in the beautiful Savoie region, pushed way over to the eastern edge of France, bordering on Switzerland. Here, Belluard's "Les Alpes" is made from the obscure and rare Gringet grape grown at high altitudes surrounded by alpine forests. Of the 22 hectares in Savoie, Belluard works 12 of them.
The rest of the Gringet vines are scattered throughout Ayse in miniature little parcels belonging to sundry producers - a hectare here, a hectare there. For the most part, Gringet is used for indifferent sparkling wines simply crafted for local consumption.
But in Belluard's hands, Gringet becomes something truly noteworthy. To begin, this 2010 Les Alpes seems to almost perfectly capture where it's grown. The wine is taut with energy, full of earthy spice (pine needles, forest floor, mushrooms) and animated by a bitter-tinged mountain water minerality. Intermixed with this are floral notes, citrus zest, stone fruits and sweet herbs.
|Dominique Belluard and his concrete eggs|
If you've spent any time in Paris' wine bars, in all likelihood you'll have come across a glass of Belluard's Gringet. He's a very important figure there, and it's difficult to resist drinking copious amounts of his Gringet while you're visiting. Belluard's wines are endlessly fascinating - unmistakeably cool climate in origin with a verve and cut that is exhilarating. This wine is surely not short on steeliness, but it is by no means a thin or teeth-chattering wine. Actually, there's an oiliness to it, which among other things testifies to Belluard's hard work in the vineyard and his sincere desire to capture all that he can from Gringet on his terroir.
Belluard is certainly the type of winemaker who spares no expense when it comes to making great wine. He converted to biodynamics in 2001. After trying wooden barrels and steel tanks and being disappointed with the results, he switched (at a considerable cost) to concrete eggs, because he felt that the controlled aeration they allowed yielded the best results.
While Belluard's wines have appeared on the West Coast here and there, this is the first time that they've ever been available on the East Coast. For those who haven't heard of or tasted Belluard's wines, I'm very happy to have the opportunity to introduce them here.
Today, we begin the introduction with this 2010 Les Alpes. While I already touched on the region and the grape above, Les Alpes specifically originates from a south-facing vineyard at 450 meters with glacial moraine, limestone and clay soils. In many ways, it's the perfect introduction to Belluard, showing the bracing mountain minerality and forest notes that define Belluard's range.
Les Alpes is strongly recommended for people who enjoy Chablis, Jura wines, dry Riesling, and for those who just want to encounter a unique grape rendered in all its singularity. Holding on to a couple bottles for the next few years should only add more fascination to a bottle that's not wanting for it in the first place.
To order, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
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