Some of the most remarkable vinous excitement and promise I have witnessed" - 2011 Belluard Les Alpes

Posted by Joe Salamone

Alpine Stunner
2011 Belluard Les Alpes
22ha in Existence

"Some of the most remarkable not to mention improbable vinous excitement and promise I have witnessed anywhere in France during the past decade." -David Schildknecht

Those were Schildknecht's words on Belluard's wines last spring when they announced Belluard's arrival on the wine scene.

We couldn't be happier about this. Belluard is making some of our favorite wines anywhere. Before it became readily available here, I would make it a point to drink Belluard's wines with abandon while in Paris.

We like to think of Belluard in the same way as Jean-Francois Ganevat - an incredibly skilled and dedicated winemaker who is placing an esoteric region on the world stage.

Last January, we announced Belluard's East Coast debut with two offers of his 2010s. At the time, few people had heard of Belluard, but soon we were receiving emails ordering another six bottles. Then came Schildknecht's review and our stock just disappeared.

Simply put, the wines are that compelling in their layered alpine minerality and the way they combine such energy with a startling depth of complexity. Few, if any wines, achieve this combination.

Dominique Belluard and his concrete eggs

People who enjoy Chablis, Jura wines, dry Rieslings, etc, should take a look.

Belluard is based in the town of Ayse in the Savoie region. Even for Savoie, Ayse is an obscure corner pushed way over to the eastern edge of France, bordering on Switzerland. The local white grape is the rare and esoteric Gringet grape. And it's to Gringet that Belluard devotes the majority of his energy.

Of the 22 hectares of Gringet, 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.

In Belluard's hands, Gringet becomes something truly profound, something that speaks clearly of its mountain origins. His 2011 Les Alpes encompasses a huge range of flavors from moss and sweet herbs to ripe citrus (esp. Meyer lemon) to white flowers and bitter-tinged mountain water minerality.

It's full of taut energy with an incisive cut. But what's more striking is how the wines possess an oily texture. If you think of a combination of Chenin and Muscadet transported to 450 meters of alpine altitude, you can get some sense.

Belluard is certainly the type of winemaker who spares no expense when it comes to making great wine. He completed his conversion to biodynamics in 2005. After trying wooden barrels and steel tanks and being disappointed with the results, he switched (at a considerable cost) to concrete eggs. He felt that the controlled aeration they allowed yielded the best results.

Belluard says that Les Alpes ages well for 3-5 years. Judging by where the 2010 Les Alpes is currently, that may be conservative.These are undoubtedly wines that you'll be hearing more about. They're too compelling and too original for this not to be the case.

To order, reply to or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits