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L'école des vins
A small handful of winegrowers continue to grow this relatively unsung but highly expressive varietal. The Clairette de Bellegarde vineyards lie at the gateway to the Camargue, halfway between Arles and Nîmes. The area clearly identifies with its Camargue neighbours – both are enthusiastic about bull-running – but in Bellegarde, they combine it with the calmness of Provence.
Clairette de Bellegarde is unusual among the southern Rhône appellations in that it makes its wine from one varietal only, Clairette.
This is a relatively uncommon grape whose history and genetic pedigree have never been fully established. To enjoy a glass of Clairette de Bellegarde is to open the door to a tiny, secret vineyard at the heart of Terre d’Argence, and finding a unique, exceptional wine.
Clairette de Bellegarde produces still, dry white wines made exclusively from Clairette grapes. The vines were originally planted for their high yields, but have gradually adapted to their new home, delivering light, fresh wines with a saline edge and a delicious hint of bitterness. Clairette is a robust, resistant grape which grows particularly well in the Bellegarde climate, a long-lived varietal with the oldest parcels dating back to 1929. When young, Clairette wines offer freshness and salinity, along with aromas of white flowers, broom and orchard fruit such as pears. As they mature, they become smoother and more rounded, developing flavours of honey and lime blossom.
Discover the best food and wine pairing in the Rhône Valley. Specialties of the local gastronomy sublimated by wines of the region like Clairette de Bellegarde to thrill of pleasure the taste buds of the most greedy.
Vallée du RhôneClairette de Bellegarde
The history of the Clairette de Bellegarde AOC vineyards dates back to the ancient Greeks who planted the vines, and to the Romans who played their part in developing them. Much later, local monastic communities – here the Abbey of St Romain – also had a hand in boosting viticulture in Terre d’Argence. The area is impacted by the presence of a number of inland waterways including the Rhône, the Petit Rhône, a series of streams and brooks, the Canal du Rhône in Sète and the Philippe Lamour canal.
Clairette de Bellegarde was awarded AOC status in 1949. Its wines are made by 7 winegrowers only, in a cooperative winery and in private cellars.
The Clairette de Bellegarde appellation area lies across two terraces – Coste Rouge and Coste Canet – bordering the historic village of Bellegarde, alongside the Canal du Rhône in Sète. Both plateaus comprise a deep layer of Villefranchian pebbles and red clay over Pliocene sand and blue marl.
The climate in Clairette de Bellegarde is Mediterranean, influenced by the Mistral wind as it exits the Rhône corridor. Its proximity to the Camargue also adds the influence of Mediterranean sea breezes, blowing across the vineyards and protecting the vines and their fruit from the searing heat of summer.
The terroir is made up largely of rounded pebbles. The soils are rich in clay, while the pebbles are mainly flint. 60% lie in the top few metres of soil. Clairette thrives in these conditions, gathering enough strength to withstand the autumn storms.
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