Bellet AOP, France
A mere 15 minutes north west of a crowded August’s Nice, take a narrow, windy road off the busy A8 autoroute and voilá; a surprising pocket of quality wine territory overlooking an ideal section of Mediterranean sea and hills. Tiny terraced vineyards hidden away on the steep hillside make the territory rather inconspicuous to tourist en-route to their Côte d’Azur holidays, making it to me, one of the most relaxing and genuine areas for superior wine tasting and exploration in Provence.
The Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) Bellet is one of the smallest in France, covering only about 650 Ha (1,606 Ac) with cultivated vines on only 50 Ha (124 Ac). There are only 15 or so vintners in the area producing wines with mostly communal equipment. Its wines are enjoyed mainly by the local Niçoise population as the production is just enough to supply regional restaurants and wine shops, but far too slight for an export market. The difficulty of getting your hands on a bottle of this southern French nectar in the US is disappointing. Although, it makes visiting and strategically stashing a number of bottles in your suitcase on the return quite a treat.
The Provençal wine regions may be crowned for Rosé, but you will find a nice range of White, Red and Rosé being produced out of Bellet. The expressive, unique whites are majority Rolle (80-90% of the white varietal plantings in the region) more widely referred to as the Italian Vermentino, often seeing a few points of Chardonnay blended in as well. You will experience sophisticated, rich flavored reds of indigenous Folle Noire grapes and fresh, fragrant rosés of Braquet. Also cultivated and in the mix are southern classics, Grenache and Cinsault.
Domaine de Toasc
After a few laps around several roundabouts off the A8 (highway), we hoped to be pointed in the right direction. However, approaching Chemin de Crémat which would allegedly take us up through several of the wine producing domains of Bellet, it still seemed impossible that we actually took the right sortie (exit). Up, up, back and forth on a few switch backs and out of nowhere appears the gate and signage to Domaine de Toasc. This was our destination for an afternoon tasting and tour of the cave and wine making facilities.
Past the gates and down we went into the front lot that opens to a fantastic view overlooking the terraced vines and out across the valley to a wild, mountainous landscape. Toasc, we soon learned, coming from old regional dialect means “wooded place.” The vines of the Domaine are rooted in sandy-clay soils, treated organically and are non-irrigated to ensure continued quality of the land. A brilliantly sunny day, it seems hot and dry on the hillside. We were catching a few rays of the close to 2,700 hours of sunshine per year, but this region’s annual rainfall actually equals that of Burgundy’s cooler climate. The altitude of the vineyards (up to 984 ft.) and the cool, strong northern Mistral wind regulates the moisture in addition to that beaming Mediterranean sun creating a small micro-climate most beneficial for long, full ripening of the grapes. As our guide, Karen, emits all this knowledge over an introduction to the region and a taste of Domaine de Toasc Blanc 2010 Cuvée du Père (100% Rolle, barrel fermented) looking over the vines I think, “ahhh, terroir.”
Karen as our host, was most inviting, personable and informative. Open to any question, she walked us through a flight of Domaine de Toasac AOP and Vin de Pays wine: white, rosé and red. Leading us also around all the facilities, she explained everything: production methods, history, discussed business and plans for the future of the Domaine. It was an experience of quality and quantity! Passion and authenticity is alive and well at Domaine de Toasc, Bellet AOP.
DOMAINE DE TOASC
213 Chemin de Crémat
Phone : + 33 (0)4 92 15 14 14
Fax : +33 (0)4 92 15 14 00
Organisme de Défense et Gestion de l’Appellation ” Bellet” (ODG Bellet)