Ch Arton Armagnac La Reserve
France’s Best Eaux de Vie
There is a wild generalisation that exists when talking about Armagnac – that the finest Armagnacs come from the Bas Armagnac area of the appellation. We disagree. Certainly there are many consistently excellent examples of Armagnac hailing from this area but to forget about the other two regions, Tenareze and Haut Armagnac, would be to miss out on one of the most promising figures working in the Armagnac Industry right now, namely Chateau Arton Haut Armagnac.
With around 800 producers/makers of Armagnac, you could be forgiven for feeling a little lost. Well, be lost no more: last year Ch Arton was awarded France’s very highest accolade, the Prix D’Excellence, in the ‘eaux de vie’ category by the Ministry of Agriculture & Food. So it didn’t just come out on top against the other 800 odd Armagnac producers, it finished above its more prominent brothers over in Cognac, and triumphed over all other Eaux de vie producing areas of France. Quite some achievement and one which we feel was justly awarded. Haut Armagnac deserves to not just be on the map but to be enjoyed as an equal.
Whilst Haut Armagnac is the largest in size of the three Armagnac appellations, covering around 12,000 hectares, it accounts for just 3% of Armagnac vineyards with Ch Arton producing their Armagnacs from just 40 hectares, obsessing over producing small quantities of the very best. Owner Patrick de Montal planted the vines himself and oversees every aspect of the process from the vineyard to the bottle - very uncommon amongst brandy producers. So Patrick is not strictly an Armagnac ‘producer’ in the typical sense (in that he does not buy casks of eau de vie from other producers); he grows the grapes, makes the wine, distils the wine, and matures the resultant eau de vie. As a result, he has complete control over the whole process, allowing him to create the very best conditions for making the best Armagnacs.
What makes these Armagnacs so special?
Two grape varietals are used for all the Armagnacs at Chateau Arton. The first, Ugni Blanc, also known as Trebbiano, is one of the most widely planted varieties of grape. Its high acidity makes it ideal for creating distinctive brandies such as Cognac and Armagnac. The second varietal, Colombard, is closely related to the more well-known varietal – Chenin Blanc. Colombard is commonly seen as only a small component of many Cognacs – however at Arton it takes a larger role in the blend – as the crisp, floral and citrusy varietal is particularly expressive in the terroir of Gascony and in these Haut Armagnacs. With these grapes, Patrick starts by producing a wine with a lower alcohol content, around 9-10% abv, and with a high level of acidity. The wines are then ‘burned’ in a traditional Armagnac still as soon as possible to avoid oxidation. The resulting eau de vie is full of intense notes of pear and spices – perfect aromas to take to the maturation barrels. At this stage, however good the eau de vie, its quality can only be assured by a hands on approach during maturation. During the first 18 months he consistently moves the barrels around the cellar, making the most of the different conditions throughout, most importantly looking for as wide a temperature differential as possible. These temperature fluctuations ‘shock’ the barrel allowing the spirit to take a deeper hold into the grain of the wood making for maximum extraction of flavour and complexity. After this period of shock, the barrels are left to continue a much more gentle maturation to allow all the aromas and flavours to come together until deemed ready for bottling.
Ch Arton La Reserve – GBP 210 IB per case (6) – 20 cases available
Ch Arton La Reserve Magnum, 150cl – GBP 75 IB per magnum – 48 available
La Reserve is a blend of Armagnacs from 4-11 years in age. Aged for 2 years in new medium toast black Gascon oak and then transferred into used barrels. The aromas and complexity belie their years and is just as enjoyable on its own as it is in a Sidecar cocktail. Approximately 7,500 bottles are produced annually. Both bottles and magnums come in a wooden presentation case.
‘stewed white fruits (pear) and dried fruits on the nose with vanilla and toasted almonds joining on a very well-balanced and rounded mouthfeel. The finish is long and full of dried fruits and spice. Equally suited to sipping neat or in a Sidecar cocktail. 95 Points, BI
5 Stars/Highest Recommendation – Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2017
Side Car Cocktail
50 ml La Reserve
30 ml Triple Sec
20 ml Lemon Juice
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel
- Price: £35.00
- Pack Size: 6 x 0.70L
- Status: IB
- Quantity: 11
- ETA: May 2018
Tasting Notes and Scores
Stewed white fruits (pear) and dried fruits on the nose with vanilla and toasted almonds joining on a very well-balanced and rounded mouthfeel. The finish is long and full of dried fruits and spice. Equally suited to sipping neat or in a Sidecar cocktail.