I spent a great afternoon at Chateau De Laubade armagnac this past fall. Despite the huge fancy estate house, this wasn't much of a vineyard/winery/armagnac house until the 1970s. The property has a history as a research farm and is one of the southernmost properties in the Bas Armagnac.
The property has 260 acres (103 hectares) of vines: folle blanche, ugni blanc, colombard, and bcco. Their particular focus is on baco and folle blanche however, but you might not know it from their ratios: 50% ugni blanc, 35% baco, 15% folle blanche, and 8% colombard.
The region in which they're located, the Bas Armagnac, has sandy soil full of pebbles.
The estate property sits on a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding forests and vineyards. They have even planted a small forest so that in 200 or so years they can make their own barrels on-site. That's some long-term thinking.
Though the wood is harvested elsewhere, they dry staves on the property for use in their barrels. These are air-dried for 3 years. Each year they make 70-100 new casks. The oak is all local and they help select the trees that will be used. The oak they like has wide grain and lots of tannins. This gives their armagnac lots of color so they don't have to use any coloring caramel in the bottled armagnac.
This year (the end of 2014), they'll be distilling for 32 days. This is a little less than usual due to a smaller harvest.
As is standard in armagnac, each year they combine the barrels for the year, often reduce it with water, then redistribute it to barrels. The barrels "never ever move", just the liquid inside them.
They have 7 aging warehouses onsite of various sizes, holding around 3000 casks in total. Some are rather huge, and some are tiny barns.
They do release some pre-1974 vintages from before they were in the armagnac business: these barrels were purchased. Their own still dates to 1975. They have just one continuous armagnac still and they distill 24/7 (as is normal) from October to December.
They distill different grapes to different proofs:
- Folle Blanche is distilled to 54-56% ABV
- Ugni Blanc is distilled to 56-59%
- Baco is distilled to 60-something
Every year they try distilling and keep raising the proof until they find the right one.
Here they have about a 2.5% angels' share.
The property is also notable because they hire artists-in-residence to build sculptures and installations on the property. The most recent was a cool little cottage dedicated to the angels' share with hoops and barrel staves suspended over water.
I'm hoping one day they decide to do writer-in-residence programs instead :)