As you may have gathered, we spent some time on the Riviera last week and before leaving home I had booked in visits to a couple of my favourite vineyards. Cue much yawning from the children. So this Wednesday’s Wine post describes how we got on at Saint Roman de Bellet, in the hills above Nice, and I’ll tell you about our second wine tasting in Dolceacqua, a few miles inland from Ventimiglia, in a forthcoming post.
The wine area of Bellet is a small one with ten producers making wines from only 60 hectares of vines. Much of the wine produced is consumed in the finer restaurants of Nice, but my local wine merchant here in the UK, Yapp Brothers, imports the wines of Domaine de la Source and I have come to know and love the red, white and rosé from this vineyard, made predominantly with grapes found only in Bellet itself.
Carine and Eric Dalmasso gave us a wonderful welcome and took us into the vines which slope down the hillsides with the most idyllic views across the valley. The Braquet grapes for the rosé already had a gorgeous light red hue and looked plump and ready to pick although Eric explained that the harvest would probably start in mid-September for the rosé and white Rolle grapes, and that the Folle Noir and Grenache for the red wine might be picked as late as early October.
After a quick peek at the cave, a tasting followed in the garden, complete with trampoline to keep the kids entertained. In the heat of the late afternoon with a gentle breeze and incredible light on the hills, we tasted through two vintages of rosé (2012 and 2013). Carine told us that the later vintage made a great aperitif whilst the 2012 was probably at its best when paired with seafood and niçois dishes. The 2013 Rolle (white) was so refreshing, dominated by grapefruit and distinct mineral nuances, that I could just imagine it being sipped delicately in a fancy fish restaurant down in the Nice port area, accompanied by a plate of oysters or langoustines. We rounded off the wine element of the tasting with the 2011 red which was full of warmth and sunshine, mid-weight and well-suited to heartier dishes based on mushrooms or game. Drinking well now, it will age gracefully over another ten years our hosts explained. We also had a sneak preview of the 2012 red which was due to go on sale three days after our visit. The reds are matured for some eighteen months in barrel before bottling, and the oak is so subtle and well-integrated leaving the flavours spicy flavours with cherries and liquorice to the fore.
Our tasting also included the domaine’s extra virgin olive oil made from the Cailletier olives grown on eighty olive trees that are scattered around the estate. The oil and the olives have been awarded Appellation d’Origine Protegée status under the AOP Olive de Nice et Huile d’olive de Nice for products that meet the grade anywhere from Grasse to Menton, on the coast or up in the mountains. The Dalmasso oil was delicate and soft with almond and artichoke flavours, followed by a strong kick of pepper on the finish. Carine also makes a range of four preserves using fruit and olives grown at the domaine and sells them to calling customers. The black olive paste and the lemon confit were my favourites, but she also makes preserves using figs and oranges which went down well with those in our group who have a sweeter tooth. I loved the fact that the ingredients had travelled virtually no distance at all and that you could taste a definite burst of sunshine in each of the four varieties. This diversification from the main wine-growing activities seems like clever business.
To meet Carine and Eric, to see the vines, the cave and to taste the unique wines made on this beautiful estate was a great pleasure and I heartily recommend Domaine de la Source to you. We headed off back down the hill towards Nice, but not before swinging by the entrance to the domaine a couple more times, the satnav having become rather confusing. I can only hope our hosts didn’t spot the mad English people getting spectacularly lost in the hills.
Domaine de la Source
303, chemin de Saquier
Saint Roman de Bellet
Open daily from 10am to 7pm without appointment.