Roger Belland is the fifth generation to run a family domaine that first saw light in 1839; and now, working together with her father, daughter Julie Belland is the sixth.
The domaine is set in the old centre of Santenay-la-Bas, above the town square in the direction of the Château. Old though many of the buildings are, the cuverie facility is relatively new having been completed only in 1998. By Burgundian standards this is a large domaine; twenty-four hectares of vines that produce over ninety thousand bottles per year; one third of which is white wine, two thirds red. Belland’s vines are spread across the appellations of Maranges, Chassagne Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay and Pommard – not to mention their home-town of Santenay, where lies the heart of the domaine’s vines.
This is not just a large domaine, it is a successful one too, producing wines with punchy but clean flavours from a range of red and white Santenay Premier Crus. Despite the importance of their Santenays, to leave it there would be to underplay the rest of the domaine’s offer; they own important parcels such as their three hectare monopole of a well-exposed corner of Chassagne’s Premier Cru Morgeot, the Clos Pitois (first planted in 1421, today to both red and white), and, perhaps the jewel in their crown, they also own the largest plot of vines in the Grand Cru of Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet – almost one-quarter of the whole appellation.
Of Vines and Winemaking
‘It’s all about the grapes’ notes Roger. For almost twenty years the domaine’s vines have seen no herbicides, using only ploughing to control the weeds and encourage the roots to go deeper. Roger says “This brings the reward of better terroir expression, and of-course less dilution if it rains near harvest, as it’s important to have plenty of solid material to deliver power and concentration to the wines.” Grass is now planted between the rows of vines, in-part to avoid the use of herbicides but also to help reduce erosion in steeper vineyards. This grass, coupled to springtime debudding, keeps yields in check.
Despite the size of the domaine, all the harvesting is done by hand. Whole clusters of pinot noir may be used in the domaine’s fermentations; Roger describes first a ‘super-triage’ and then a search for the best bunches – but the quantity is entirely dependant on the vintage. There is one cuvée, the Volnay Premier Cru Santenots, which is occasionally made with 100% whole clusters – but it’s the only one. Roger prefers the cleanliness and simpler temperature control of stainless steel for fermenting his reds, but before the fermentation starts a long cold-maceration is done which, in-part, accounts for the deep colours and punchy flavours of his reds.
The whites see a ‘very traditional’ wine making process; the grapes are pressed, settled overnight in the cold and then decanted into barrels. Roger traditionally used about fifty percent new wood but Julie prefers a little less – so now it’s closer to thirty percent except the Criots which sees sixty percent. “The wines now have a little more minerality and seem a little less rich. That’s the youngsters for you!” says Roger.
The cork amalgam DIAM 10 closures are now used throughout the range; Roger is convinced that not only has he removed the problem of corked wines but also the chance oxidation in (too) young bottles – DIAMs are guaranteed TCA free and also guaranteed as a seal for ten years – it will be interesting to see it they will make some difference in terms of oxidation.
Domaine Roger Belland offers a range of wines that are easy to recommend – even their Bourgognes offer a generous mouthful of flavour. These wines were never the last word in elegance, but in the last years, more and more they have an equilibrium that has made them more lyrical.
When it comes to Santenay, their Premier Cru Beauregard, of three red Santenay Premiers offered, seems the one with most impact yet holds onto a core on minerality. The domaine’s Beauregard not only represents a very fine example of Santenay, it also perfectly represents the upfront ‘this is me’ style of Domaine Roger Belland’s wines – I buy a few bottles most years.
Although centred on Santenay, it is clear that the domaine’s best white wine comes from Chassagne: As the largest owners of the Grand Cru Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet it is incumbent on them to make a great version, and succeed they do. Their Criots seems to be heavily influenced by the vintage – quite a good thing I think; sometimes it is about impact (2005, 2006, 2009) other times it is about a steely core of minerality (2007, 2008, 2010) but it is always distinguished by a peacock’s tale of expanding flavour and exceptional length. As the white Grand Crus of the Côte de Beaune go, it is also something of a bargain.
Domaine Roger Belland
3 rue de la Chapelle
Tel. +33 (0)3 80 20 60 95
Fax. +33 (0)3 80 20 63 93