Vincent Ruiz -Introduction
Vincent Ruiz, a young winemaker, has taken over the vineyards previously cared for by Dominique Belluard and will continue to make wines with Gringet grapes.
With only 22 hectares of Gringet remaining and 9.5 of them owned by Domaine Belluard, including some planted in 1860, it was a huge and lasting achievement to raise its status as he did. It was our great privilege to represent him in Australia and visiting France earlier this year it was still hard to come to terms with his absence.
His wife Valérie, in the midst of such a personal tragedy had to deal with the reality of hectares of vines not too far from being ready to harvest, wines from Dominique’s final 2020 vintage still in tank, and bottles of his famed sparkling wines aging for future release.
For a long time we were not sure what decisions she had made. We saw, like many of you, that a wine called Éponyme, made with Gringet from Dominique’ 2020 harvest, which was vinified by Dominique’s friend Jean-François Ganevat, become available in France from late last year. We drank a bottle at Septime on August 31 this year, thinking it was perhaps the last of Dominique’s wines we may ever buy. It was, of course, given it was nurtured by the hands of two of France’s greatest vignerons, glorious.
We now know what decisions Valérie has made since that terrible day. The first one was not to vinify the 2021 vintage. The harvest was sold to a small number of winemaker friends including Ganevat, Jean-Claude Lapalu and Fabrice Dodane, so it’s possible some of it is or will make its way to Australia via the people who took the harvest who are represented here. We hope so.
In the absence of a successor to take over the estate Valérie decided to sell it. We will be forever grateful that, having made that decision, she also decided that she would sell not to a brand but to someone who would respect the work Dominique and his team had done and continue to develop the estate in the same spirit.
To jump to the beginning of the new story, she has sold to a young man called Vincent Ruiz, who has been working for Franck Balthazar in the Rhone Valley and has also established a small négoce label.
She met Vincent Ruiz in December 2021 when he first visited the estate. Both were delighted by each other. As the meeting was described in news we received recently, Valérie saw “in the sensitivity, determination of this young man the fundamental qualities to perpetuate the future of the estate.”
With that realisation we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
The name of the new estate under Vincent Ruiz, recognising Dominique’s role in elevating his signature grape variety, is Domaine du Gringet. There will be changes made by Vincent Ruiz – perhaps the most dramatic is the decision to abandon the sparkling wines and concentrate on the still cuvées.
Vincent Ruiz will also continue work Dominique had begun to have the estate certified by Ecocert. It will be good to have that certification on future releases, especially for customers who indicate a wine’s certifications on their wine lists.
In the vineyards Vincent Ruiz is making changes too. He has decided to stop working the soil with the objective of achieving greater soil self-fertility through the natural degradation of organic elements in the vineyard, and is planting grasses between the vines.
As many of the people we are working with are now doing, he has begun a process of restoring biodiversity on the edge of the vineyards by planting shrubs, trees and hedges. To avoid soil compaction he has also moved to doing his treatments using people with backpacks on the steeper slopes and lighter machines than the tractors used previously in the lower, flatter vineyards. It all points to exciting future consequences over coming vintages.
Vincent’s first vintage will be the 2022 wines, which are some way away. However, in the meantime he has sold Dominique’s final wines (still white from 2020 and sparkling wine from 2019).
We have an allocation of three different cuvées. We have made the decision to continue to call this final release of Dominique’s wines “Belluard” not “Domaine du Gringet”. The back labelling describes each wine as cultivated and vinified by Dominique Belluard and bottled by SAS Vincent Ruiz, which is the name of the business to which Domaine du Gringet belongs. There’s no mention of Domaine du Gringet on these labels although we expect that to change with future vintages.
Belluard Ayze Brut Nature Les Perles du Mont-Blanc 2019
Perles du Mont Blanc was aged for 24 months sur latte, with no dosage at disgorgement, so this is very much a wine made by Dominique.
It comes from vines in several different plots located around the estate. Some (the lieu-dit Chez Reydet) is yellow marl and some is white marl (the lieu-dit Le Pré Milleret). This will be the final time we can offer this sparkling wine which was a mainstay of our business for many years and so is very familiar to many of our customers.
Most particularly, it was poured almost constantly at Garagistes, the legendary restaurant in Hobart which opened in 2010, with a list consisting entirely of natural wines. So many people discovered Belluard through drinking a glass of this wine to begin their meal at Garagistes.
It is the wine we opened magnums of at Lucinda the Friday night before Bottletops 2021 for our own farewell to and celebration of Dominique with many Australian winemakers who were in Hobart for Bottletops and had had the pleasure of drinking his wines.
RRP: $77 (SOLD OUT)
Belluard Ayze Éponyme 2020
This is a second, later release, of Éponyme (the first one was the wine bottled by Ganevat, which was released late in 2021, and which we drank in France in August 2022).
It comes from the same yellow and white marl vines as Perles de Mont Blanc as well as from the limestone scree of Vers Etraz. It was aged for 18 months on fine lees in oval concrete tanks prior to bottling, several months longer than the first release of the wine with the same name, and the effect of the limestone is more pronounced.
Bottled by Vincent Ruiz, it has the same enigmatic label and name as the first release but the back label identifies its difference. Unlike the first release of Éponyme, the bottle is topped with white wax. It is lively with fresh acidity and drinking well now.
RRP: $99 (SOLD OUT)
Belluard Ayze Monsieur Gringet 2020
The final wine we have, also from Dominique’s final 2020 vintage is Monsieur Gringet.
It is made from the hillside vines, including the iron-spiked red marl and clay Le Feu, from which Dominique vinified his iconic Le Feu cuvée.
In this wine, in addition to the grapes from le Feu there are also grapes from La Paille (white marl) and Chez Edouard (limestone scree), also parcels also on the hills at the top of the estate.
We have walked these hills with Dominique, only knowing the name of Le Feu, but we think that in recent years the other two vineyards provided the grapes for Pur Jus. It was a cuvée made from the very best of the parcels that prior to its creation were all in Les Alpes.
The aging was also on fine lees in oval concrete tanks. The label for this cuvée was designed by Michel Tolmer, whose cartoons and posters line the walls of many of the world’s natural wine bars (Épaulé Jeté is perhaps the most famous).
The label is in many ways the opposite to Éponyme. It is a celebration of life, happiness, and the joy of friends drinking wine together. It is all about the future of Domaine du Gringet and, with it, the preserved legacy left by Dominque Belluard. The bottle is topped with yellow wax.
RRP: $134 (SOLD OUT)