by Jill Mott
I first traveled to California on the hunt for natural wine in 2012. Upon returning, colleagues inquired about my vinous finds and favorites only to be shocked that one of my top wines was from a little known grape called Gringet grown by a producer no one had really heard of. I was sitting at Terroir in San Francisco and paid attention to no one in my party, as this quiet grape sang a most unique and placid nose-song, the palate electric yet poised. Needless to say, when I saw them arrive on our shelves at Henry & Son, I was ardently surprised our market had finally had access to these highly allocated wines.
Dominique Belluard’s vines are nestled in and around the hamlet of Ayse in the northeastern reaches of the Savoie, less than 20 miles from Lake Geneva. This area represents less than 2% of Savoie’s vineyards so we’re already gearing ourselves up for there to be next-to-no-wine available. Gringet is Dominique’s calling card – strange that a grape with less than 25 hectares in the world (all planted here in Ayse) can be someone’s claim to fame but most will argue, no one does it better than Sir Belluard on his carefully tended to ten hectares.
The vines are all cared for biodynamically and planted to calcareous clay and limestone soils, some special parcels with a higher ferrous/iron content (see notes below for La Feu). Wines are fermented via indigenous yeasts (even the sparklers!) and are clean as whistles. Very low sulphur additions on all wines. Behold the APLINE BRILLIANCE of Dominique Belluard!
LES PERLES DU MONT BLANC
100% Gringet made in a traditional/Champagne method. This would cost at least twice the price if produced in Champagne, as the quality and palate are of the highest level; balanced, two years on the lees, tight bubbles, and just the right amount of dosage to produce keenly filed edges. A prized sparkler that hardly any sparkling wine nerd knows exists.
MONT BLANC BRUT ZERO 2015
Holy buckets. If you like a traditional/Champagne method wine sans dosage, this is the shredder for you! Reminiscent of Georg Muffat’s composing of a chiseled yet coalesced string section, this is Gringet at its most juxtaposed. You’ll revel in the fruit on the nose and be taken aback by the mineral/no dosage on the palate. This wine thankfully spends three years on the lees adding to its complexity and mindful amplitude. Don’t be afraid to lie this down for a few years. This gives Champagnes double or even triple its price, a run for their money.
LES ALPES 2016/2017
Gringet reminds me of Chenin Blanc lingering on terraced alpine slopes riddled with surrounding unique flora and Les Alpes depicts this in spades with its leesy, apple skin nature. Ripe, sensual yet delineated Asian pear meld with maize and wild irises on the nose and the abstract nature I can only compare to a chilly-natured Savennières. The fruit is grown at 350-450 meters (elevation) and with the cut this wine delivers on the palate, you’d never guess it experiences a natural malolactic conversion. Add the fact that it’s fermented in concrete egg and stainless steel and the freshness is bewildering – the acid and fruit penetrate the finish making this a stellar wine for summer fare with guts (read fat). Such a cool, virtually unknown wine that inspires contemplation. Drink now or cellar up to five years for an unforgettable, unexpected unveiling!
LE FEU 2017
Le Feu is, well, let’s just say we have a mere five bottles and that’s all we’ll receive this vintage. From Gringet grown to a single vineyard of clay/limestone soils (the soils appear red, hence the name ‘Feu’ meaning FIRE) at 450 meters, this has layers that reveal more with each swirl in the glass and it consistently takes longer to open up and after an hour open you’ll appreciate its brilliance of depth (clay soil!) while it remains light as a feather (Gringet + limestone!). The compact frame of structure contains wild, rich-smelling persimmon marmalade and dried apples notes, somewhat Vouvray-like in nature. Fermented and aged in concrete egg raises the profile to unexpected levels of elegance. Drink now – 2027. The clarity will astound you!
Originally aired Wednesday, June 19, 2019 on the Morning Show with Emily Reese.
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