I recently visited a one of the smallest AC’s in France: Bellet. And this region constitutes a Top Tip for wine fans!
It’s part of the Provence wine region (not geographically; that’s Alpes Maritimes), and about as far east as any AC of Southern France, in the hills over Nice. Tiny appellation, and quite uncharacteristic of the south because of the local grapes and the mesoclimate. Makes for a great visit if you’re in the neighborhood of Nice; it’s just north of the city. You do need a car though, as it’s quite remote.
The grapes used here are the local Rolle (with some ubiquitous Chardonnay) for whites, rosé’s are made from Bracquet (known as Brachetto in Piemonte) and the reds are mostly based on the local Folle noire, with some Grenache and Cinsault used as well.
We visited the top houses when we were there (Clos Saint-Vincent & Chateau de Bellet) and were pleasantly surprised. If tasted ‘blind’ you’d never place them this far south. The whites gave the minerality and racy acidity of great Bourgognes, the reds I’d probably place as top Loires, though with lots more fruit. Northern Rhone without ‘fattyness’? Clos Saint-Vincent was easily my favourite, and I spent a small hour with the very inspiring owner chatting about the principles of making great wine, and the way he interpreted them. This kind of attention and tiny production doesn’t come cheap though; Clos Saint-Vincent’s top cuvee will change hands at 50 (white) or 65 (red) euro. Per bottle…