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Nice vineyard montage (Chrissie McClatchie)

Wine tasting in the south of France


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23rd June 2014

Twice a year the vineyards in the hills behind Nice open their cellar doors for all to enjoy. Our feature blogger, Chrissie McClatchie was at the head of the queue

Every six months the vineyards of Nice throw open their doors for a discovery weekend. Considering that tastings in Bellet usually need to be organised in advance and attract a fee, these Portes Ouvertes are a great opportunity to get acquainted with our local Niçois wine in a relaxed, almost festive atmosphere.

It was my second Portes Ouvertes since starting this blog and the first with the sun shining. Which makes such a difference to traipsing around vineyards in the rain.

It would be fairly ambitious (even for the most ardent wine lover) to attempt to visit all eleven of the Bellet producers in one go, so my tasting partner in crime, Michaela, and I decided on three of the vineyards that we were least familiar with.

First stop, Via Julia Augusta, named after the Roman road which runs past the entrance.

If you head east, you’ll reach Rome. West, Barcelona.

Today, we weren’t going anywhere but the tasting table.

The main building of Via Julia Augusta is a beautiful villa painted in warm Provençal colours, just on the main square in Saint Roman de Bellet.

It was a great backdrop to discover their three wines, a red, rosé and white AOC Bellet.

Their new vintage (2013) white was a perfect match to a hot summer afternoon. The wine is 100% Rolle, the local white grape variety which is also known as Vermentino across the border in Liguria.

Fresh, floral and fruity, it was a powerful white and delightful discovery. I will be back for more.

Next stop on the Bellet express was Domaine de La Source, along Chemin de Saquier near Château de Bellet.

If we’d known this was where the party was at we would have come much earlier! The garden was set up with tables and chairs and a welcoming hammock. There were chickens roaming the yard.

We settled in for a glass of their white and rosé. Another lovely Rolle and a rosé made from the indigenous variety of the hills, Braquet.

Bellet rosé is very food friendly as Braquet feels more structured than some of the quaffing Provence rosés often found along this coast.

It paired excellently with the home-made socca, fresh from the wood-fire oven.

Not satisfied with making fine wine, at Domaine de la Source they also bottle an AOP Olive Oil.

We enjoyed an impromptu picnic for two.

Our last stop was Domaine de Vinceline. We’d heard rumours of music in the vines. On a Sunday afternoon, how could we say no?

Domaine de Vinceline is another of Bellet’s family-run vineyards, just down the path from Domaine de la Source.

The views over towards the Baou of Saint-Jeannet were pretty awesome. As were the olive trees which lined the entrance. These oliviers have clearly witnessed a vintage or two in these hills.

The jazz band were slightly occupied with wine tasting, so we joined them and admired the panoramic views, glass of white in hand.

The grape variety? Rolle, of course.

We realised that if we stayed to enjoy another glass we’d literally be ‘Rolle’-ing home, so made an uncharacteristically sensible decision to call it an afternoon.

With one last glance of the view. A glorious, sweeping panorama which extends from the sparkling Mediterranean Sea up towards the still snow-capped mountains of the Mercantour.

Chrissie McClactchyThe Riviera Grapevine | Chrissie McClatchie

I’m a girl from Sydney’s who discovered Nice when my big sister moved here many years ago. One of the big novelties as an Australian living in this fair city is that I can cross a border in less than 40 minutes to be in a new country (gelato for afternoon tea or Ventimiglia for an apéro anyone?). Over five years ago I found myself here on a one way ticket and promptly and somewhat fortuitously fell into a role in a local wine company. I’m still there, and feel fortunate to have turned one of my favourite leisure activities into a career.

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