Chateau de Bellevue Loire Visit July 2017

By Sarah Rowlands
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Kindly arranged by Interloire with Helen Savage       

Bellevue lies south of the main Loire river and south of Angers within the heart of the region’s gentle topography.  Francois Bardel escorted us around the Chateau showing us the Bellevue over the Chaume.  He has worked there for five years and described himself as a ‘Swiss army knife’ due to his many and varied responsibilities.

120-150,000 bottles of white, red, crémant and rosé wines are produced here from 35ha which are mainly located close to the Chateau itself. The split varies with vintage. In a year like 2013, which was not good enough for reds, only the [machine harvested] rosé was produced. It can be difficult to project production styles. For example, 70-80% of the Savennières region suffered frost in 2017. Luckily, Bellevue fared better and they will sell all their production from the 2ha of vineyard they own. The 2016 Savennières was elegant and spicy, like poached pears. These characters came from the schist soil, as there is no oak, Francois tells us. The 2014 lemon pith, Eclat de Schiste, is harvested from a south east facing 40-degree site in the second week of October, when the grapes were almost at the point of having botrytis. This, plus the extra two years’ age including ageing in older barrels for a whole year, made it richer, more fudgy, with a rolling less linear texture. It’s their highest cuvée and won a gold medal.  One week earlier, they harvest their fresh, powerful and peachy Anjou Blanc.

Current issues affecting the Chateau include use of chemicals, esca and improving their profile. Though having Macron take over will likely have little impact on their business, the issues regarding chemicals in winemaking in Bordeaux has heightened public interest in the level of chemicals in wine. The Chateau has a low chemical use policy and is determined to produce wine as naturally as possible. Esca impacts less on this Chateau. In the region Francois says that around a 5% pa loss is typical. Here it is most prevalent in the 20-40 year old vines, with less impact and spreading in the last 2 years. As they need 3-5 people pruning for 3 months in November, they are unable to delay pruning, even though this method could lesson esca impacts. They have plans to increase tourism to the Chateau, to attract more younger drinkers, as well as to construct  a B&B. However, they don’t seem to have much social media presence, yet.

They also make Anjou Rouge, and Chaume sweet wines. Their 2016 unoaked Anjou Rouge Cuvée Tradition has a smooth, yet elegant character, and represents a quality cabernet franc excellent for illustrating the grape variety. Handpicked grapes are so ripe if you kick the 60yo vines the grapes fall off. It had the pencil lead perfume and crunchy freshness, wrapped up with marshmallow fruitiness and elegance, created by the more marginal climate here. We saw this as a theme in the other Loire wines we tasted.  The opulent Chaume Premier Cru carried typical mango, exotic fruits and weightiness. Though the acid is high and refreshing the wine had a softness, and was very drinkable. It finished with a spicy and expansive character.

The wines sell mainly direct to domestic consumers, with some 15% to restaurants, hotels, bars and liquor stores; not even 1% is exported. We were told Chateau Bellevue wines are imported into the UK by Portal, Dingwell and Norris, based in Emsworth.  [They may also be trading as Ivy Wines.]  Their website is pdnwines.com, however it appears to be under development so it is difficult to tell what their operation is about.  Bellevue is a Chateau worth re-visiting in a couple of years’ time.  See www.chateaudebellevue.fr

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