At Domaine d’Arton, wines and Armagnacs age in their place of origin, where they were born. From vine to grape, from grape to wine, and from wine to Armagnac, everything occurs on the domaine. We bear witness to their story.
“We are from the land of our childhood” -Patrick de Montal
Everything began in 1979. Patrick de Montal and Victoire de Montesquiou fell under the charm of Arton, turning their backs on their Parisian life in order to live their dream–to return to the land of their origins, where they had spent their childhoods and where generations of their ancestors had lived. Evidence of the Gascon impetuosity running through their veins!
Their ambition was essential to the work at hand: to restore the memory of Arton, one of land and vines, as evidenced by the traces of historic winemaking found on the site. Patrick de Montal was convinced that in order to pay homage to Armagnac, this historic “marvel”, we must be present during each step of its production, from the harvesting of the grapes to the bottling, thus guaranteeing its authenticity to those who taste it. Transparency. That is his watchword. Only the vignoble can boast of caring for their Armagnac with such commitment and devotion from one end of production to another. All of the nobility of the craft finds its raison d’être in this artisanal approach.
Vignerons, Agricultural Cooperatives & Wine Traders
The production of Armagnac is a complex universe dominated by the agricultural cooperative and wine traders.
Vignerons, smaller in number, are distinct from other producers of Armagnac in many ways. Independent growers, they have a dealer number that shows that the grapes destined for Armagnac are grown and produced on the domaine, and also that meticulous care is given to them daily. It is the key to their freedom, one which allows them to fashion an Armagnac in their own image from start to finish. It also assures the consistency of the taste from year to year. The labels on their bottles carry the notice “bottled at the chateau/domaine”.
The cooperative acts as a production aid and marketing tool. It assembles the vineyards from the same terroir who pool their grapes in order to make wine for each member, redistributing it according to an economy of scale. Each grower leaves with a quantity of wine, proportional to the amount of grapes contributed, that they subsequently distill and bottle under their own names. The labels on their bottles are marked “bottled on the property”.
Armagnac has always been a part of the region. There are still treasures sleeping in its cellars. It is up to the wine merchants to find them. They buy stocks of wine or Armagnac from brokers, then make their own blends and supervise the ageing process. They are able to combine stocks from different producers and from the three sub-regions of AOC Armagnac, blurring the trail of provenance. Vignerons and traders are not held to the same schedule. If the vigneron distills his wine as close as possible to the harvest in order to keep the aromas fresh, then the wine merchant is dependent on the availability of stores of wine available, which he can often only purchase at the very end of the authorized distillation period (from October-March).
Patrick de Montal had a distinct vision in 1979, choosing the rigor of traceability as the signature trait of Arton – a truly pioneering spirit! Convinced that the quality of Armagnac depends on its integrity, he grants a crucial importance to its origin and demands a new criterion of excellence in the region.
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” - Seneca
It took a love of hard work and perseverance to bring this ambition to life. In 1979 the domaine’s charterhouse was in ruin. The lands were being rented out. But nature is magnificent. It was from the beauty of the site that Patrick and Victoire de Montal drew their fervor. The project to plant the vignes was already there. They just needed to be patient.
Patrick de Montal started out as a wine trader. Founding the brand “Armagnac de Montal,” he crisscrossed the Bas Armagnac and the Ténarèze in search of hidden treasure. Rapidly he began to distance himself from practices that went against both his concern for authenticity and his artisanal aspirations. He did not want to “manufacture” Armagnac, but to “grow” it. The first vines, the Ugni Blanc, were planted in 1981 on the plot of 2.5 hectares called “Pastor,” positioned at the edge of the woods. The proximity of the trees was essential. The acidic water, filtered by the sandy soil, is excellent for producing a good Armagnac. In 1990 Patrick de Montal finally recovered all of the lands that had been rented. The Arton winery began to take shape, looking much the same way as it does today. The first harvest was held the same year, and the next year the first Armagnac distilled entirely from Arton grapes was barrelled. Until the year 2000, Patrick de Montal worked with the Agricultural Cooperative of Condom to create his tasting wines. In 2001 the first wine made from 100% Arton grapes was bottled. In 2017, the jury at the General Agricultural Competition awarded the Prix de l’Excellence to the Arton Armagnacs, in the French eaux de vies category. This was the first time such a prize was given to the rare and exceptional eau de vie from Gascony. The family motto, patience triumphs adversity, has never been more appropriate.