Little more than 50 hectares, the Bellet Appellation vineyard in Nice is without a doubt one of the smallest in France. It is also the only one in Nice. It is also one of the oldest in France. But do its wines make it as unique as its location?
Just a few miles from Monaco, Bellet wines, despite being less well-known than their neighbour AOC Côtes de Provence, are no less impressive. Thanks to its remarkable location between sea and mountain, the vineyard gets 2,700 hours of sunshine a year. The annual rainfall is just right for the vines, and there is a slight chill due to the altitude and light winds. These make up prime conditions for quality white, rosé and red wines.
Bellet makes their wines from mainly local grape varieties. For red and rosé, they use classic grapes well-known to the region as well as some more unique kinds. The typical grenache and cinsault grapes feature alongside wines made from folle noire and braquet – the latter of which is named after a family of local winemakers. For their white wines, they blend rolle grapes with chardonnay.
The winegrowers in this region are running vineyards as family businesses and hold sustainability close to their hearts. The French government certifies the majority of them as organic farmers, their grapes free of chemicals more often used in mass production. The 50-hectare vineyard houses nine growers, all of whom are committed to protecting their land as well as the history of this AOC (“appellation d’origine contrôlée”, meaning the wine is government-recognised, quality agricultural product).
A very old tradition dating back to Greek Physicians
The Greeks first planted the Bellet vines in the 5th century BC, before the Roman Empire settled in the region and developed winemaking. It was not until the 16th century that the first estate appeared in the area. The vineyard was most active at the beginning of the 19th century, with 1,000 hectares of vines sprawling across the landscape behind Nice.
Several plagues would devastate the crops in years to come, including one bout which destroyed vineyards in every French region. The winegrowers in Nice set about rebuilding their vineyard, and in 1941 the government recognised the area as AOC Bellet.
Iconic local wines
Today, the region produces citrusy white wines, crisp rosés and well-balanced reds. Sadly, they are up against their well-known neighbours AOC Côtes de Provence. Despite this, Nice’s vineyards, overlooking the Baie des Anges, offer remarkable local wines, producing over 120,000 bottles each year.
- Château de Bellet
- Château de Crémat
- Clos Saint-Jean
- Collet de Bovis
- Domaine de la Source
- Domaine de Toasc
- Domaine de Vincéline
- Domaine Saint-Jean
- Via Julia-Augusta
By Claire Guillou