Sadly, we lost the great Dominique during the pandemic, bringing an unfortunate close to nearly 35 years at the helm of his family's estate. When he took over in 1988, the domaine was not entirely focused on grapes, with various crops and some dairy cows all part of the equation. Ever the student, Dominique chose to focus on the vines exclusively, and in particular in a native variety called Gringet.
As so many similarly thoughtful winemakers have done, Dominique chose to elevate the health of his vineyard with a focus on biodynamic methods; despite the cold (and close proximity to the Mont Blanc), he kept his vines trained close to the ground to grasp every last degree of warmth they could, despite the risk of mildew. The iron-rich soils absorbed a good amount of heat from the sun when it appeared, and his wines show ample ripeness.
Gringet, the grape that makes up nearly the entirety of his family land is unique - picture it somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc - the brightness, the green streak and tendency to produce honeyed flavors when ripe - and Chenin Blanc - the textural character, the way it shows lees-y flavors easily, and a bit of that lanolin hint. The structure is such that it should age well, particularly given the incredible attention to vineyard health, and some older examples show similar qualities to aged Chablis.
Perhaps what drew attention to the Belluard wines were the fine sparkling wines he crafted from 100% Gringet in the Champagne method. The wines spend about 2 years on the lees and have more than ample body, texture and expression. The still wines show both freshness and structure to age, and are generally made in vessels designed to suspend the lees so that batonnage is not needed, while the wines display the same texture as though batonnage had been performed, without tasting overtly of yeast.
It seems the domaine will stay in the family, with a new winemaker brought on who grasps the importance of tradition and carrying on the legacy; as such, the future bottlings will bear the name of Belluard's love child: Domaine de Gringet.
With two years on the lees, the Ayze Les Perles du Mont Blanc (2018) is reminiscent of fine Champagnes but with Gringet's trademark green streak, spice and citrus flavors. Monsieur Gringet is as texturally gripping as a top Chablis, with crystalline minerality and length to the finish. The 2020 Eponyme, a wine that was finished by Jean-Francois Ganevat, a close friend of the family, is entirely Gringet, a slightly riper wine, showcasing white fruits, pears and a delightful salty mineral touch. Les Alpes showcases the brilliant freshness of Gringet, with dried apricot, lime zest and a fleshier palate.