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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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Why Clos Bellane is Essential

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.

Wines to Seek Out

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.

Clos Bellane Côtes du Rhône-Villages Valréas Blanc

When white Rhône’s are this good, they’re among France’s most compelling wines. This blanc bursts with complex aromas (peaches? kiwi? lemon peel? flowers?) and has a sultry texture and energy that demands attention. Convention wisdom says “you shouldn’t be able to drink this well for less than $20.”

Clos Bellane Côtes du Rhône-Villages Valréas Rouge

The rouge is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah that perfectly extracts the best attributes of both grapes, suggesting dried strawberry and blackberry, rosemary and leather. The wine drinks like a duet in harmony. I sampled this wine blind next to several other Grenache blends including a couple from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It wasn’t even close which was my favorite on that table.

Note: I have yet to review Clos Bellane’s other wines: a rosé of Grenache, a varietal each of Grenache and Syrah, and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They are on the watch list.

Originally listed: January 2020.

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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