The flagship Croze release is the 2018 Crozes-Hermitage Roche Pierre. A big, rich, powerful wine, it has plenty of classy oak as well as ripe blue fruits, scorched earth, graphite, chocolate, and assorted meatiness to go with a full-bodied, rich, concentrated style on the palate. From old vines on granitic soils, Belle’s 2018 Crozes Hermitage Roche Pierre is easily the equal of many Hermitages. Inky in color, marked by scents of crushed stone, licorice, dark berries and black olives, it’s full-bodied on the palate and a marvelous Crozes from a top vintage. Supple but structured, with a sense of coolness and restraint, it reverberates on the finish, delivering masses of fruit but also spicy-savory notes that keep it lively and refreshing. There’s 40% new oak in the élevage, but it’s scarcely noticeable, so intense is the fruit.
Robert Parker 95 Points
Jeb Dunnuck 95 Points
About Domaine Belle
Domaine Belle has an interesting history. In the 1600’s, vines were grown in vineyards around the Chateau de Larnage and all the land and produce belonged to the Lord of Larnage. Each villager had to give three days unpaid labor (one for pruning, one for ploughing and another for the grape harvest). In 1769, at a village assembly called by Claude François Mure, the new Lord of Larnage, each family was granted a small parcel of land with vines for their personal use. From these feudal times the family holding gradually expanded, until in the 1930s it consisted of several neighboring plots whose grapes were made into wine and sold locally.
A great change took place when Louis Belle (Philippe’s grandfather) took over the property. In fact, while Louis Belle loved growing vines, he didn’t much like making the wine and in 1933 he became a founder member of the Tain l’Hermitage wine-making cooperative. This great winegrower also acquired some superb parcels of land in the communes of Larnage and Tain l’Hermitage. When Louis handed the land on to his son Albert in the 1970s, the holding consisted of 4ha spread over two communes (Larnage and Tain).
Passionate about vines and wine, Albert Belle started to make wine for himself and his friends. In 1990, under the impetus provided by Albert’s son Philippe, who had recently returned from studying œnology, winemaking moved to the forefront with the creation of Domaine Belle. Together Albert and Philippe built a modern, functional winery, giving them the means to produce great wines which respect the terroir of the individual appellations. Since Albert’s retirement in 2003, Phillipe has continued alone; passionate about his work, committed to protecting his terroirs and about making the wines from Larnage known around the world. The Domaine has always been a family holding, passed on from generation to generation, promoting the special Larnage terroir with its white clays, often called ‘Les Terres Blanches’.
Today, Domaine Belle stretches over six communes (Larnage, Crozes-Hermitage, Tain l’Hermitage, Pont de l’Isère, Mercurol and Tournon), three appellations (Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Saint Joseph) and covers an area of 25ha of vines, to which you must add apricot orchards and the vine nursery managed by Philippe’s brother, Jean-Claude. And the story is set to continue with Philippe’s son Guillaume’s interest in winemaking and his future role in the Domaine.