Saturday, 13 October 2018

Bellet, the wine of Nice

Long fascinated by Bellet, we finally made the few kilometers up from Nice for a visit.

They don't want to make it easy for you; the road where most of the vineyards are, the Chemin de Cremat has been closed for months.

So making our way literally around the houses, the first property we came across was Domaine de la Source.

Eric Dalmasso and his sister Carine have taken over from father Jacques
Surviving the amorous attentions of a large dog, we met M. Dalmasso the younger who kindly poured us his red made from 80% Folle Noire and 20% Grenache.

The Domaine de la Source website rightly has it that AOC since 1941, 'Bellet' is rare, a southern wine with character! Folle Noir is the characteristic grape for the red wines and the equally rare and mysterious Braquet mainly for the roses. Whites are made from Rolle (Vermentino). Domaine La Source wines are imported into the UK by Yapp Bros.

There is a special red called Cuvee Fuella Nera at E.48. Fuella Nera is a synonym for Folle Noire. Other synonyms are Dame Noire, Folle de Nice, Fuola and Jurancon Rouge. There are only 19 ha. of this variety in the Alpes Maritimes, the only department where the variety is permitted. Braquet is even scarcer at only 12 ha. Is it our imagination or were the reds of Bellet more frequently blends of Folle Noire with Braquet in the past? On our visit as mentioned Braquet appeared to be used mostly in rose these days. Other permitted varieties are Grenache as above but also Cinsault.

Bellet prices reflect the 'boutique' nature of the apellation.
Folle Noire is described as 'minor but aromatic' in 'Wine Grapes'. We assume the 'minor' refers to quantity. We love it because of its aromatics. 'Wine Grapes' adds that it is often confused with Negrette and Jurancon Noir - two other varieties we love for the same aromatic reasons.

Domaine de la Source is certified Agriculture Biologique. We bought the red right away.

M. Dalmasso allowed is to take a peek at the vineyard.

these were Braquet grapes coming along nicely. Braquet is unrelated to Brachetto by the way.

Next door was another Domaine - de Vinceline - unknown to us hitherto. No visiting hours were posted so we moved on.

Nearby was the famous Chateau de Bellet, one of the most prominent names of the apellation.

Closed unfortunately.

Next stop the actual village of Bellet.

tres francais

Next, the Chateau de Cremat.

3 x 2Cvs!

Here the tasting room had a group of visitors earnestly tasting their way through a flight of wines and then piling into the 2Cvs from an enterprising rental firm called 2Cvloc. Make a note of it!

The chateau itself is remarkably imposing. Built in 1906 in the Tuscan style with battlements, much modified since. The property serves as a venue for events accommodating up to 500 guests.

What a contrast with the charming but decidedly rustic Domaine du Fogolar nearby.

Domaine de Fogolar is the most southerly vineyard in the Bellet apellation.

Here was the owner and founder Prof. Jean Spizzo who had his own group of international tasters. Prof. Spizzo set up the vineyard in 1974. Ex-professor of Italian Theatre and literature at Nice University, M. Spizzo named the vineyard 'Fogolar' - a Friulian name in honour of his grandfather who had been a vigneron in Friuli. His wines are called 'Collet de Bovis.' These wines are available in the UK from a French exporter called Ivinio.

Collet de Bovis wines are more modestly priced than some but no less excellent. The label has an image from Goya's 'La Vendimia'
Both the red and whites of Collet de Bovis have won prizes recently at the Concours des Vignerons Independants and Concours generale de Paris

Prof. Spizzo planted the vineyard in a former olive grove.

There are now 4.5 ha. His wines are certified 'Agriculture Biologique.'

Domaine de Toasc is another prominent Bellet property with wines available at Nice airport duty free.

Sadly closed when we passed by.

the pillars just visible on the portal of the pink house are reflected on the Toasc label:

Toasc is another Domaine making Agriculture Biologique certified wines.
Toasc has quite a lot of Grenache as well as small amounts of Syrah and Chardonnay.

The vineyard is supposed to date back to Roman times.

It had been a most interesting little excursion. Certainly one to do properly one day when there might be more time. There are actually three roads you can follow on the Circuit des vignobles de Bellet;

1. Circuit par route de Bellet
2. Circuit par Chemin de Cremat
3. Circuit par Chemain de Saquier

when the route isn't barre, that is.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

In praise of Biancolella

Gerardo's home-made Biancolella on Ponza

Anyone reading recent Slotovino posts may have noticed our pleasure in drinking Biancolella this summer.

Antiche Cantine Migliaccio's dry Biancolella from Ponza

Known as the grape of Ischia it is also grown on Capri, Procida and Ponza as well as  on the mainland (or the continent as islanders call it) in Caserta. All together there were only 293 ha. in 2000 so it counts as rare.

Biancolella had been on our map since finding a Terradei Forastera/Biancolella blend in Germany in 2010 and subsequently informing readers that the Casa D'Ambra Frassitelli version is available at L'Antico restaurant in the Kings Road if you ask Franco nicely.

It doesn't figure in the Slotovino Hall of Fame though and we would like to put that right without further ado.

As well as Casa D'Ambra there are other producers on Ischia including Perrazzo.

Some of the Biancolella vineyards on Ischia require rather heroic cultivation such as the Casa D'Ambra vines above,

Cienatempo is another good producer.

We were served this pleasant bottle in a restaurant on Capri.

 As ever, Ian D'Agata's summing up is just right;

All Biancolella wines have the potential to be delicious, with complexity and depth of flavour uncommon in many Italian white wines...

 We agree entirely.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Meet Tonino, l'Orticoltore di Ceglie Messapica

Ceglie Messapica is a town in Puglia with roots that go back to pre-Roman times. The inhabitants are proud of this 'older than Rome' tradition and this results in a self-sufficient atmosphere whereby being off the beaten track doesn't seem to be a problem.

Although few tourists make it to Ceglie Messapica than to other Pugiliese towns such as Martina Franca, Ostuni or heaven forbid Alberobello*, there are more restaurants per capita in Ceglie than almost anywhere else for some reason.

The townsfolk enjoy a magnificent Passeggiata ending up in the Piazza Principale where Tonino, the Horticulturalist of Ceglie Messapica may be found every evening with his circle of friends chatting or listening to 'il professore' - a person fabled to be an authority on practically every subject.

In case this sounds condescending, we should mention that Tonino is himself an authority on at least two subjects: the electrical and electronics industry in which he had been involved in the past and horticulture.

In the latter speciality he has a deep knowledge of the local 'terroir' and what and how to cultivate it. His ideas are Rudolf Steiner - like, not to say Demeter - ish probably without him consciously subscribing to these schools or standards.

We found him in an extensive vegetable garden where he grows an amazing type of tomato which can be kept for over a year without rotting or drying out.

beautiful onions

lovely spuds

Also magnificent potatoes, onions, zucchini, melons all kinds of fruit and what not.

That day he had planned to make a graft onto a particular tree, we forget what variety or what he was grafting but there were examples of other grafts he had made in previous years resulting in plums of different colours growing on the same tree for instance.

It was a pleasure to watch him peel the bark from the cutting and marry it to the freshly cut branch, binding it skilfully with white cloth.

While carrying out this surgery, he explained that this was the auspicious day to make the graft as the current phase of the moon was favourable. Sensing our raised eyebrow, he added that it was the same in life: if you wanted to make a bambino, it was also necessary to do so at the right time of the month...

The 'what not' of Tonino's vegetable garden appeared to us to be one obvious thing: vines. There was room enough for a few to be sure. The land had been cleared and the deep red Puglian soil looked ready for a few rows. Why not?

Well, Tonino already had enough to do keeping his existing plantings going so in a light-bulb moment we suggested a no-spray Rauscedo grape variety such as the Soreli we had discovered earlier in the year - a new generation resistant vine derived from Friulano which would need no more than spring pruning.

Mentioning this new development, Tonino said 'oh yes, they have wine in Friuli too' or words to that effect, turned to speak to someone else on an unrelated topic and that was that!

The roots go deep indeed but they don't include anything from another province to be sure.

* Did you know that Japanese European tour itineraries sometimes consist solely of London, Paris and Alberobello?