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Southwestern France’s Fine Red Wine Winery


     Southwestern France is full of vineyards and chateaux worth exploring. This region’s wines represent good value and deserve the attention of consumers in France and abroad.
     The Fronton appellation located between Cahors and Toulouse is of the regions that were originally classified as VDQS (Vin Delimite de Qualte Superieure), but elevated to AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) status in 1975.

     Chateau Bellevue La Foret came on stream in 1974 with the objective to produce red and rose wines exclusively from Cabernet France, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Gamay Noir and Negrette, a grape variety indigenous here and most popular with growers. The vineyards cover 115 hectares. The modern winery was completed in 1976 and furnished with equipment on the advice of professor Emile Peynaud of the University of Bordeaux, department of oenology.

     The alluvial and well drained soil of the appellation and mild climate help produce fruit eminently suitable for fine red wines. The whole appellation contains 2400 hectares and 50 percent of the production is controlled by the local co-operative.

     Chateau Bellevue La Foret, with 850,000 bottles of annual production is the largest privately held with an extensive portfolio (five reds and two roses), of which the brand Chateau Bellevue La Foret represents the largest proportion (80 percent. The wine consists of Negrette (50 percent), Cabernet franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (25),plus Syrah and Gamay (25).

     Negrette a unique grape, appeared here in the 12th century under the name Mavro (black in Greek), originating in Cyprus. The Knights of the order of Saint Jean of Jerusalem who participated in the second crusade brought the cutting to the region. Negrette adapted well in Coteaux Frontonais.

     Chateau Bellevue La Foret always displays blackberry and plum aromas, peppery notes with a touch of tobacco. It is round, full bodied, with a good balance and long finish. It ages well up to six to eight years, pending vintage.

     La Selection displays more depth than the regular blend.

     La Cuvee has different blend (Cabernet Sauvignon 30 percent, Cabernet Franc 30, Negrette 20, and Syrah 20 and shows more structure, good underlying acidity, and fine fruit.

     The top-of-the-line Bellevue La Foret called Optimum consists of Negrette, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in equal proportions from blocks of vineyards restricted to 40 hectolitres per hectare. After fermentation the wine is subjected to micro-oxygenation, rendering it more fruity and accessible for early consumption. The wine is completely natural, without fungicides, and displays a deep dark purple colour, with aromas of black currant, thyme, eucalyptus, blue berries and liquorice. On the palate, the full body and balance become apparent, and the finish is long.

     Decant at least two hours before service, and serve at 16 – 18 C. It should be cellared for six to eight years for best results, but is accessible now.

     Belleveu La Foret rose is refreshing, shows good acidity, fruit and balance. Recommended for summer dishes and light fare.
Consumers looking for interesting wines that represent value ought to look for this property’s wines.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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