2021 Domaine de Belema – Yann Pernuit, Gringet “Imago – per aspera ad astra” Vin de Savoie, France.
One of the most interesting white wines I’ve tried in the last few years is vigernon Yann Pernuit’s Domaine de Belema Imago, made with 100% Gringet, an unbelievably rare white grape found in the higher elevation vineyards of France’s Alpine Savoie region, making for a mineral intense, stony and brightly focused offering that is very exciting in glass. A lovely core of citrusy fruit, crushed stones and light herbal tones lead the way here, adding a nice level of depth with air, the pale greenish/gold Gringet shows orange/tangerine, quince, kiwi and white peach fruits along with, clove, citron, green leaf tea, seashore and lip smacking saline notes. This lighter bodied white is really perky, bone dry crisp and will be great with oysters, clams and sushi, along with soft creamy cheeses. Winemaker Yann Perniut, the Paris born rising star of Savoie, is based in Ayse and has unique set of vineyards with parcels of Etraire de la Dhuy, another exceptionally rare varietal, Gringet, as seen here in this wine, along with Savoie classics, Mondeuse, Altesse, Jacquaire and Gamay. To compare Gringet to anything more widely known, I might say it is somewhat like Chenin Blanc meets Aligote, but it certainly has its own personality and is quite distinctive, so it has the cool factor and I recommend it to the most geeky of wine lovers, especially those that enjoy chalky and steely Loire Valley whites in the mode of Romain Guiberteau’s Brèze.
Yann Pernuit, who launched his Domaine de Belema label in 2019, is a winemaker who, as he notes, already has experience in handcrafted natural style wines in Savoie having worked at Château de Mérande, and with late Dominique Belluard who helped guide Pernuit along on his path. The Gringet, he says, does best on the limestone scree soils of the Mont Blanc valley and gives it an extra sense of complexity and dimension. Belluard also influenced Rajat Parr, the famous sommelier, and now winemaker at Phelan Farm, who actually planted Gringet variety last year at his property in Cambria, such is his fascination with the rare varieties of Savoie. Parr’s attention has also made these Domaine de Belema wines highly allocated in California and he says that Gringet is fantastic grape with its has somewhat aromatic nose, with waxy yellow fruit, adding that the texture is superb, with fresh acidity and not too austere like Jacquère or too creamy like Altesse, and it excites him to the point where it calls Gringet, a slightly better version of Chenin Blanc! While looking into the origins of Gringet, an autochthonous white wine grape native to the Haute-Savoie area with a distant relationship to Altesse, a more common varietal here, but with no DNA link to Savagnin, which people had thought or to any Traminer relative. Grown with organic and biodynamic farming Pernuit ferments his Gringet with indigenous yeasts in tank and some amphora and ultra low sulphur to promote transparency, terroir and the grape’s lively nature. Thanks to Pierre Lesbre, of Pepite Wines, the importer for Yann Pernuit, for showing me this thrilling wine, it’s definitely a grape to explore.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive