Friday, 25 March 2016

St. Jeannet and Bellet re-visited

The micro-appellations of Bellet and particularly St. Jeannet near Nice on the Cote d'Azur hold tremendous fascination for their eccentric varieties and vinification methods.

St. Jeannet it a true oddity ageing some of their wines in Bonbonniers. Both St. Jeannet and Bellet have Braquet, a grape variety not found elsewhere. Some maintain that Braquet is Brachetto but this is not so,

Saint Jeannet has a few other odd idiosyncrasies. It has only one producer, Domaine des Hautes Collines de la Cote d'Azur owned by the Rasse family. 4 hectares are farmed by Rene Rasse and his two sons. This is not unprecedented in France. The famous AOC Chateau Grillet in Condrieu has only one producer and occupies 3,8 ha. As well as St. Jeannet and Bellet, other small appellations in Provence include Bandol, Cassis, Palette and the less familiar La Londe, Cotaux de Pierrevert, Pierrefeu and Villars-sur-Var, so this corner of Provence could be called a diversity hot-spot.

St. Jeannet used to have its own grape variety as has been mentioned in this Blog but having died out in its place of origin it can only be found now in Argentina where it is blended 50/50 with Chardonnay by Bodega Benegas of Mendoza. We once tracked down a bottle of this in New York but it was 'off' by the time we opened it.

probably Rolle (Vermentino), Chardonnay and possibly Ugni Blanc

By co-incidence the only bottle of St. Jeannet white we bought on a recent trip to Nice was also corked.

permitted varieties include Braquet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre and Syrah

The St. Jeannet red however was a real hit. We bought this at a shop called 'Caves de la Tour' where there seemed to be the best selection of both St. Jeannet and Bellet wines in Nice.

The knowledgeable lady helping us offered a choice of reds matured in Bonbonniers or not matured in Bonbonniers. Naturally we chose the former which she said had a 'gout partculier'. When pressed on this she simply said 'plus fruite. In the drinking the red was indeed fruity but one couldn't say that Bonbonniers add a unique unmistakable quality to the wine.

NB 90% Folle Noir with 10% Grenache. No Braquet at all.

Domaine de Toasc is sometimes available from Nice Airport Duty Free

NB the Rose has a majority of Braquet but it only goes to 'complete' the red which is based on Folle Noir.

  • The red wines of Chateau de Cremat are made up of Folle Noire 60%, Grenache 20% and Cinsault 20%.
  • The rosĂ© is made up of 60% Braquet, 20% Grenache, 20% Cinsault.
  • The white is made of 80% Rolle and 20% Chardonnay.

Was it our imagination or did the wines of Bellet previously contain more Braquet than nowadays? There were a few red Bellets with no Braquet at all. None had more than a minority of the grape whereas practically all had Folle Noir, aka Fuella Nera at their major constituent. Red Bellet is distinctive. The scent of petals is often evoked in descriptions. So to sum up, both St. Jeannet red and red Bellet are well worth seeking out but Bellet is the more distinctive in taste even if St. Jeannet is more distinctive in its production.

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