Spirits / Armagnac / Domaine Boingnères
|Charles Neal Selections||
Charles Neal Selections © 2020
|Charles Neal Selections||
Le Frêche, Landes
In the year 2007, Domaine Boingnères celebrated its 200th anniversary. The estate was acquired on June 20, 1807 by Jean Boingnères, an ancestor of proprietor Martine Lafitte. It is located in the small commune of Le Frêche, on perhaps the best growing soil (iron-rich sables fauves) of the Bas-Armagnac.
While distillation has taken place on the property since the early part of this century, until 1951 part of their wine was sold to wine merchants and part put through a traveling still to make a few barrels of Armagnac. The small storehouse contained the crown jewels of the estate—vintages from the 1920’s and ‘30’s.
Boingnères Armagnac Debuts in Paris
Raymond Baudoin, the founder of Vin de France magazine and the Academie du Vin de France, was very well known in the quality wine growing circles where he encouraged and promoted direct sales. He was astounded by the stunning quality of the armagnacs of Jean-Baptiste Boingnères, and immediately arranged for the spirits to be sent to the finest restaurants in Paris.
Boingnères-Lafitte Family Lineage
In 1948, Marguerite Boingnères, Jean-Baptiste's daughter, married Leon Lafitte. The son of a tradesman, Lafitte was born in Labastide d'Armagnac, a small village near Le Frêche.
Lafitte became an officer in the French army and spent five years as a prisoner of the Germans during the Second World War. In 1946, he retired from the army and returned to his native village. He later became mayor, a post he held for 18 years.
The Boingnères Estate Grows and the Brand is Refined
In the early 1950’s, an adjoining property was bought and added to the Boingnères estate in La Frêche. Lafitte continued producing Armagnac while prolonging his activities as a broker.
In 1956, after a serious illness acquired back when he was a prisoner of war, he put an end to his brokering activities. From then on, he focused his attention solely on the armagnacs of Boingnères.
Lafitte spent the next 40 years restoring the vineyards. Rather than following tradition, he began planting less and less Bacco and concentrated on the "noble" varieties: Ugni Blanc, Colombard and, particularly, Folle Blanche.
He built a new winery and fitted it with a horizontal press—something rare in the region at the time. To be able to distill when and how he wanted, he installed his own still in 1975. The following year, a new barrel house was built. Rather than blending the varieties together and then distilling, Lafitte distilled the varieties separately and then blended them afterwards.
The Barrel Count Grows
In 1953, the stocks of Armagnac at Boingnères stood at about 40 barrels. By the early 1990’s, the stock had risen to nearly 560 barrels. The Boingnères armagnacs had become heavily sought out by connoisseurs, and available at top restaurants and serious stores worldwide.
The Loss of Leon Lafitte
In 1994, on the final day that Folle Blanche was being distilled, Leon Lafitte died after a long and painful illness. He was buried in the cemetery nearby in St. Vidou, with his feet facing the direction of his property.
Lafitte's wife Marguerite and daughter Martine took over, running the business as their father had with complete attention to detail. In 2004, Marguerite succumbed to a long illness, leaving the domaine in only Martine's hands. Martine Lafitte has continued with the same spirit as her father and as a result, the reputation of the domaine has been taken to even further heights.
Much of the oak at Boingnères actually comes from the Gascon forests. Martine contracts trees every year and air dries the staves next to one of the chai. The staves are then fabricated into 420-liter barrels by the small local tonnelier Gilles Bartholomo. Gilles’ grandfather actually made the barrels for Martine's grandfather more than 50 years ago!
Slow Alcohol Descension
The barrels then go into one of the two Boingnères chai. Both are relatively dry. Consequently, the alcohol level descends very slowly, so that even after 20 years, some barrels have only lost 3 degrees of alcohol!
As traditionally Armagnac is released without being reduced in alcohol—and Martine Lafitte is a strict traditionalist—the armagnacs at Boingnères are released at cask strength to ensure their absolute purity.
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac “Réserve Spéciale” NV
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Ugni Blanc 1969
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Baco 1975
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Folle Blanche 1981
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Folle Blanche 1984
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac “Cépages Nobles” 1985
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Folle Blanche 1986
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Folle Blanche 1993
Domaine Boingnères Bas-Armagnac Folle Blanche 2001
Note: not all of these vintages are currently available
The Boingnères Vineyards and Winery Today
The Boingnères estate vineyards cover 22 hectares, 13 of which are planted in Folle Blanche, 4.5 in Colombard and 4.5 in Ugni Blanc, all on sables fauves (iron-rich sand). Average yield per hectare is between 80 and 90 hectolitres. These grapes hit between 8% and 9% alcohol with a high acidity level—perfect for distillation.
The winery has two Vaslin horizontal presses. The free run juice from the first three pressings sequences is used for distillation. The juice is pumped into the fermentation tanks where yeast is added.
Sulfur is avoided because it gives the distilled product a bad taste. Instead, the wine is distilled as soon as possible after fermentation,sur lie, which helps give the distillate more finesse and complexity.
Distilling takes place during the month of November in a continuous Sier still purchased in 1975. This beautiful still, with 9 exiting plates, captures all the fine aromas of the wine. The alcohol comes out at 52%, then the spirit goes into new oak barrels.
Domaine Boingnères in Highly-Rated Restaurants
Of the more than 4,000 restaurants in France and Monaco rated by the Michelin Guide, only 21 were awarded their highest ranking of 3 stars. Domaine Boingnères is present on the spirits list in 14 of these grand restaurants including: Alain Ducasse, Michel Guérard, Troisgros and Taillevant. We think this speaks for itself…