The story of Domaine Belluard is one that takes us to Savoie. It’s the story of a young wine maker who took up his family domain after completing his studies in viticulture and oenology, and whose desire to continually improve has led from conventional agriculture to the world of biodynamics. A choice that shows great conviction on such difficult, sloping terrain, all the more when this is a question of protecting some of the world’s only surviving Gringet grapes.
Founded in 1947 in the village of Ayse in Haute-Savoie – between Geneva and Chamonix – the domain was historically planted with fruit trees. The parents of Dominique Belluard began to cultivate vines at the property in the 1980s, and Dominique came to take the reins in 1988.
The estate’s vineyards now span just over 10 hectares that are mainly planted with Gringet, a varietal unique to Savoie that grows in this village and nowhere else. This local grape was around even before the arrival of the Romans. Now there are only 22 hectares of Gringet left in the world, 11 of which are owned by Domaine Belluard. The rest is shared between around 10 smaller producers. Overall, Belluard’s vines are made up of 95% Gringet, 3% Altesse, and 2% Mondeuse. The plants are situated on an abrupt slope at 450 metres of altitude, fully exposed to the south. There are different types of terroir here: small pebbles from the chalky rocks of the Chablais massif, sediments from very old glaciers that come from layers of chalk and clay, and red clay rich in iron.
When he started out at the domain in 1988, Dominique Belluard worked with a conventional approach that involved high yields and the use of various artificial products, viticultural practices he had learnt as classic techniques. With time, experience, and meeting producers like François Bouchet and Pierre Masson, Dominique became more interested by the idea of cleaner agriculture that might bring him closer to his terroir. Little by little, he introduced the principles of organic and biodynamic growing into his work, and by 2001 he was fully involved in the latter (though not certified as such). Since then, he has placed great importance in the balance of his terroirs, whether that’s plant life, animal life, or even the presence of minerals. Biodynamic preparations are used on the vines, such as the 500 (made from cow dung) to increase organic activity, and the 501 (made from powdered quartz) which helps the plants to resist diseases. There is also a respect for the lunar calendar.
In the winery, vinifications are led by wild yeasts, and the wine matures in amphora and ovoid, concrete vats.
We’ve had several opportunities to taste one of the cuvées from Domaine Belluard, the 2015 Les Alpes. The whole team found this to be an outstanding wine. It has an incredibly fruity nose with intense aromas of pear and quince. These blend with floral notes in an enchanting ensemble. On the palate, this wine has a light and airy feel which, coming together with the strong notes of white fruit, is truly delightful.
The cuvées from this domain are characterised by their finesse and their strong aromatic personality, in a rather unique style. Honestly, this is a domain that deserves your attention!