In early 2011, Guilhaume brought a bottle of Belluard Les Alpes to Heart, my wine bar and retail shop in San Francisco. I don't think I'd ever heard of Gringet before he mentioned it was the varietal. Working in wine, new experiences are incredibly rare after a while. They're ether. But Les Alpes was objectively unlike anything that I'd ever had before. It was lush and creamy yet tasted like brackish water and stones. It smelled like jasmine and orange blossom and white button mushrooms. Drinking it was like hearing Sgt. Pepper's or Pet Sounds for the first time. It made me question my reference points.
I immediately ordered as much of every Belluard wine as Selection Massale would sell me. They were a fledgling distributor. My wine bar wasn't much older. Looking at it now, I don't think it's hyperbole to say that these wines are largely responsible for Domestique.
There are 20 hectares of Gringet in the world. Dominique Belluard grows 10 of them in Ayse, nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc. He took over his family's domaine in 1988 and slowly expanded its Gringet vines through massale selection plantings. The vines are in a mixture of limestone, iron, and marl soils and sit between 300 and 450 meters, high enough to make these mountain wines but low enough to achieve full ripeness.
Dom is a meticulous grower and vigneron. All his farming is biodynamic. Everything is fermented with native yeasts and sees very small quantities of sulfur (volcanic only). Elevage is done in concrete eggs, keeping the wines very fresh but providing enough oxygen exchange that they always develop a sense of layered density.
I make it a ritual to drink one bottle of each current release of Belluard every year. I want to remind myself why it matters. Hopefully with this offer some of you can too.
- Jeff Segal