Spirits / Armagnac / Château de Pellehaut
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ChÂteau de pellehaut
Charles Neal Selections © 2020
|Charles Neal Selections||
ChÂteau de pellehaut
Château de Pellehaut - Bas Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut is located in the center of Armagnac, where the terrain sees a slight rise in altitude as well as a shift from the sand of the Bas-Armagnac to clay and limestone of the Ténarèze. With additional nutrients and better water retention, the Ténarèze has soil much better adapted to the production of quality table wine. This is the area from which Côtes de Gascogne wines, whose citrus fruit and zippy acidity have made them huge sellers around the world, hail.
Pellehaut sits at the top of a hill at 180 meters altitude overlooking the quaint village of Monteal-du-Gers. In fact, the name Pellehaut comes from the Roman pila haut, or high point. The château itself, constructed in the 18th century, faces the Pyrénées which, although 90 kilometers away, can be majestically seen in the distance on a clear day.
The Pellehaut estate covers 550 hectares, many of which are planted with grains or sunflowers, or used as grazing grounds for their herd of Blonde d’Aquitaine cows--whose compost helps to limit synthetic fertilizers. Vines now cover 250 hectares on several different types of soil, including mixtures of clay and limestone along with sand interspersed with small limestone pieces. For their armagnacs, they only use grapes grown on the parcels covered with primarily sand, helping to give their spirits unusual finesse for the region.
Focus on Wine Production
I first tasted the family’s armagnacs with Mathieu Beraut way back in 1997. At that time Mathieu, having studied at Chateau Beycheville in Bordeaux and done an internship at Au Bon Climat in Santa Barbara, was more focused on starting to bottle more of their own quality wine than on the armagnacs.
Before then, the Berauts had little reason to bottle their wines, as they worked with several négociants who purchased large lots of wine and sold them with other labels, in France and abroad. The winery was stocked with scores of 10,000-liter tanks that were full at the beginning of October and empty by the end of the summer. They were paid well for their bulk wine, and enjoyed not having the complications that come with bottling—like the cost of supplies or having to get out in the market and hustle to sell the product.
When father Gaston retired, Mathieu and his brother Martin took the reins, with Mathieu as winemaker and maître de chai and Martin in charge of the vineyards. That was when Mathieu’s vision was implemented and they began bottling more of their wine, while retaining their close relationships with négociants.
Today it appears that Mathieu has achieved his wine goal: their sales are in the top 5 of Côtes de Gascogne producers, and the wines are available in nearly every department of France as well as many countries around the world. With 19 full time employees, brokers working around France and in these other countries, Pellehaut has become one of the Côtes de Gascogne’s more important and recognizable wine domaines
Armagnac Production--Transition to Pure Folle Blanche
But we do not import the Pellehaut wines, so back to the armagnacs. Flash back to my first visit there in 1997, when I first tasted the armagnacs with Mathieu Beraut. Until that year, Pellehaut’s armagnacs were made with solely Ugni Blanc, and the chai was in a small building off to the side of the château, almost as an afterthought. That year a transition was made to distill their armagnacs with pure Folle Blanche, and since that time they have also purchased the property and buildings of Docteur Gabriel just down the slope from Pellehaut. The armagnacs, now looked after by Laurent Agostini and Emilie Maimir, are aged, blended and bottled in this building, certainly facilitating logistics by having all the spirits under one roof.
The chateau’s wine is distilled by Patrick Michalouski in one of his traveling column stills in November, exiting at 54% alcohol. Afterwards it goes into new 420-liter oak barrels fabricated by the region’s top cooper Gilles Bartholomo. Spirits are left to age at their natural strength without the addition of any water. In addition to a large array of vintages, Pellehaut also releases a couple of excellent blends, including a multi-vintage Reserve and younger Selection, specifically appealing in cocktails.
Approachability When Young
Because of the higher clay and limestone content, spirits in the Ténarèze tend to more rigid at the beginning of their lives, unlike those in the Bas-Armagnac which are softer and fruitier. Probably because of that very quality, Ténarèze spirits usually age better than those from the Bas-Armagnac. Pellehaut’s armagnacs defy this principle, however, namely because their Folle Banche is planted on sandier soils that help produce a round, supple spirit.
With excellent terroir, annual investment in new oak barrels, and someone in charge of monitoring and aerating barrels, it is no surprise that Pellehaut’s armagnacs now stand as number one in the Ténarèze.
Château de Pellehaut Armagnac Blanche NV
Château de Pellehaut Armagnac “Age de Glace” NV
Château de Pellehaut Armagnac “Sélection” NV
Château de Pellehaut Armagnac “Sélection II” NV
Château de Pellehaut Réserve NV
Château de Pellehaut 1973 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1974 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1978 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1982 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1983 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1986 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1987 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1988 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1989 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1994 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 1996 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 2000 Armagnac
Château de Pellehaut 2005 Armagnac
Note that not all of these vintages are currently available