Part four of our deep dive into the best Armagnac houses sees us looking at Chateau de Pellehaut and Chateau de Laubade. Each brings unique methods to the process of creating Armagnac, with wildly different flavours and textures.
Armagnac Houses: Chateau de Pellehaut
Chateau de Pellehaut has been owned and operated by the Béraut family for 300 years, but the estate has only distilled its own grapes to produce Armagnac since the 1970s.
At Chateau de Pellehaut, they distil the traditional way using the continuous still specific to the Armagnac region, the Alambic Armagnacais, heated by a wood-burning boiler. It works using the “single distillation” principle, as opposed to the double distillation typical of the Charente region used to produce cognac and certain other Armagnacs.
The clay soils of Tenareze yield more robust and powerful spirits, which is a contributing factor to the quality of the wines and Armagnac brandies produced at Pellehaut. The variety and complexity of the soils mean that the wines produced in this area are rich and fruity, giving fine, mild and complex Armagnac flavours.
The wines from which the brandy is distilled are made traditionally and, on leaving the still, the brandy is kept in 400-litre barrels, referred to as ‘pieces’, made from open-grain oak from the estate and the Limousin region. The last Folle Blanche grapes to be distilled are aged in the Bordeaux and Burgundy-type barrels that were used to make Pellehaut’s best white wines.
Chateau de Pellehaut Le Bel Age
Palmers Wine Store
The Reserve Le Bel Age Armagnac is a blend of several vintages, averaging 10 years old, leaving it with quite a pleasant, light yellow colouring, tinted as if with orange and cinnamon.
Le Bel Age provides a rich and complex aroma, with the cinnamon hinted at in the colouring present, joined by lots of fruit and a strong vanilla character. Tasting it reveals a gentle, almost simple flavour, but it’s lovely; the vanilla gives way to coconut, with a long aftertaste moving towards fresh coffee.
There are other, more complex flavour profiles out there, but there’s a space for something uncomplicated that you can simply relax and enjoy. Chateau de Pellehaut Le Bel Age meets that demand perfectly.
Armagnac Houses: Chateau de Laubade
Located in Sorbets d’Armagnac, Chateau de Laubade has existed since 1870 and has 260 acres of vineyard. It has been owned and run by the Lesgourgues family since 1974, at which point the estate began producing wine and Armagnac from its own vineyards.
Laubade prides itself on being environmentally sustainable. Every year a herd of 600 ewes scattered throughout the vineyard produce sufficient organic manure to ensure this sustainability. Since 1999, a partnership has been forged with Joseph Cazette, the “Shepherd of Laubad.” This unique approach contributes to the ecosystem and balance of both the vineyard and soils.
Chateau de Laubade is one of the very few properties producing eight traditional grape varieties and, as the largest producer of Baco grapes in the region, believes that the Baco gives a real identity to the best Bas Armagnac and its capacity to age while in contact with the oak casks over numerous years.
Not only does Laubade have its own alembic still to allow exact control of the distilling process, but it’s also the only Armagnac house to cooper its own oak cases for ageing. The oaks are carefully selected in various forests surrounding the property, to then be air-dried over three years or more, and carefully crafted by the in-house cooper. The bottling date and lot numbers are listed on the bottle, ensuring complete traceability of the eau-de-vie.
Chateau de Laubade XO
Armagnacs ranging from 15 to 25 years old are aged in oak barrels, made by Chateau de Laubade’s in-house coopers, before being blended to create an intense drink. Flavours of orange, toast and pine dominate, with coconut and vanilla in the background, all wrapped up with some cinnamon.
The same flavours come to the fore on the palette, with some extra sweetness from dried fruits and honey. It’s still a savoury profile though, with a broad flavour that sets off nerves around the entire mouth. A long finish leaves the flavours lingering.
It’s almost overwhelming, but the complexity is matched by completeness that makes it easier to appreciate. Half the pleasure is working through each mouthful and working out just what flavours are buzzing and zinging around.