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Essential Winemakers of France ©Opening a Bottle

Valréas, Southern Rhône 

Primary Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne, Viognier

Primary Appellations/Cru: Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas AOC

American Importer: Skurnik Wines



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The Wines…

Cool-climate wines from the Southern Rhône may sound about as contradictory as oranges from the Alps, but that’s what Clos Bellane is all about: elegant, pure expressions of Southern Rhône blends, whose twist comes from their uncharacteristic freshness.

Situated on a plateau above the small city of Valréas, this tiny and relatively young estate with winemaker Stephane Vedeau at the helm makes the two best bottles of Côtes du Rhône I’ve come across: one red and one white. The rouge is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah that perfectly extracts the best attributes of both grapes. The wine drinks like a duet in harmony. The blanc bursts with complex aromas (peaches? kiwi? lemon peel? flowers?) and has a sultry texture and energy that demands attention. Also look for Clos Bellane’s other wines: a rosé of Grenache, a varietal each of Grenache and Syrah, and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

…And Why They Stand Out

While there are few regions in France more appealing for a vacation than the Southern Rhône, I frequently don’t see eye-to-eye with its wines, especially the reds. Naturally high in alcohol (and frequently high in price), the red wines from this swath of southern France have too often struck me as ungainly. The white wines have dazzled a bit more, but can also get stuck in “these go to 11” mode. Finding a producer who can “switch hit” from red to white to include on this list has been elusive. Until I came upon Clos Bellane.

Having not visited the domaine yet, I can only guess as to why this is, but the winery’s elevation (400 meters, among the highest in the Southern Rhône) is a good place to start. Cooler nights help preserve acidity in clusters on the vine, and when you are talking about such flabby-prone grapes as Grenache, Syrah and Marsanne, that is a huge advantage. Factor in the estate’s organic certification (it matters!) and all the work and diligence that is required from it, and you have a winery poised to make some of the Southern Rhône’s most precious wines for years to come. I look forward to revisiting Clos Bellane soon.

Visiting Clos Bellane

Tastings are available with an appointment on Monday through Thursday, 9am–5pm and Friday, 9am–3pm. Contact the winery directly.

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