Nice Wine: Of course for most of us at least, wine is nice, but specifically we’re referring to the wine made in and around the city of Nice.
The glittering stretch of coastline between Monaco and Cannes may be famous for many things, but the fermented grape isn’t one of them. That’s why most visitors and even some locals are surprised to learn of a collection of vineyards hidden in the western hills of Nice.
One of the smallest AOC’s (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in France, and the only one found entirely within city limits, Bellet is one of the oldest winemaking areas in the country and was officially granted AOC status in 1941. The setting is one of the finest in Nice with panoramic views from the mountains of the Mercantour Valley sweeping down to the glittering azure of the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, despite Bellet’s popularity as prime real estate for sprawling Niçois villas, ten vineyards craft a Nice wine, which can be either red, white or rosé.
Rolle is the main white grape variety in Bellet, grown along the coast from Provence into Liguria (where it is known as Vermentino). In Nice, a little Chardonnay is not uncommon in the blend. A glass of Bellet Blanc is the perfect match to a summery waterfront lunch: aromatic and refreshing, bursting with citrus and floral flavours.
Braquet, a red grape indigenous to the Alpes-Maritimes, is the main grape used in a Bellet rosé. Named after a prestigious local family, rosé made from Braquet is darker in hue than its Provence counterparts and produces a weightier wine with freshness and good structure. It’s a great rosé to match with food.
Another indigenous variety, Folle Noire, is the main ingredient in a Bellet red. Usually blended with Braquet and Grenache, these are serious and elegant wines with harmonious tannins and ageing potential.
With just over 50 hectares of vines under cultivation, production is small and, in total, less than 200,000 bottles are produced annually. The wines rarely leave the Côte d’Azur, popular additions to the restaurant wine lists along the coast. As you can imagine, they are a great match with local cuisine.
Of course, there is also the opportunity to discover the wines in situ. The vineyards welcome visits and tastings, the majority by appointment.
The wines from Nice have been long appreciated by presidents and royalty. Louis XIV, and later, Thomas Jefferson were partial to a glass or two and Nice wine was served at the wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco.
So grab a glass of Nice wine, you’re in fine company…
By Chrissie McClatchie, an Australian wine specialist who lives in Nice
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