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Château de Briat

Chateau de Briat Armagnac label

Mauvezin d'Armagnac, Landes

The Château de Briat has a long and impressive history. Built in 1540, it first served as the hunting manor for Queen Jeanne d'Albret.

The Queen's son, Henri de Navarre — later Henri IV, King of France — often stayed in the castle. In 1587, he gave it to one of his fellow officers as a reward for saving his life in battle.

After changing ownership several times, the domaine was taken over by Baron Raoul de Pichon-Longueville in 1864. The Pichon-Longueville family already owned the famous vineyard of the same name in Pauillac. The family used the estate as a country retreat while continuing the château's tradition of distilling a percentage of the harvest every year and stocking Armagnac.

The de Luze Era Begins

When the Château de Pichon-Longueville property in Bordeaux was sold, the Château de Briat was retained by Baron Raoul de Pichon-Longueville's maternal ancestors, the de Luze family.

Gilles de Luze smiling and holding a glass of Armagnac to his lips
Gilles de Luze in 2003.

Gilles de Luze was an editor at the Larousse editing house in Paris for most of his adult life. He returned to his family's estate in the small Bas-Armagnac town of Mauvezin (population 213) in the early 1990s when his father retired.

The Launch of Cru Légendaires

Later in that decade, de Luze teamed together with four other Armagnac producers — Yves Grassa from Château de Tariquet, Martine Lafitte from Domaine Boingnères, Jean de Boisesson from Château de Lacquy and Pierre Laberdolive (or Armagnac Laberdolive) — and formed the Cru Légendaires. The mission of this consortium was to promote traditional, rare and deluxe cask strength vintage Armagnacs from their independent estates in the Bas-Armagnac.

It was in the atmosphere of three star restaurants and fine wine merchants that de Luze character thrived. He brought a rare intelligence to the small world of artisan producers, provided a breath of fresh air to Armagnac's governing bureau (the BNIA) and served as an energetic and dignified spokesman for small growers within this humbly regal appellation.

Gone Before His Time

In 2003 tragedy struck when de Luze died in an automobile crash. He was only 53 years old. The fatal accident took place in the early hours of morning just south of Paris as de Luze was returning home from a independent producers salon in Lyon. De Luze' wife, Adeline, was also pronounced dead at the scene.

Stephane de Luze standing by the fireplace and holding a glass of Armagnac.
Stephane de Luze

Stephane de Luze Takes the Helm

The de Luze's left one son, Stephane who, in his early-thirties, suddenly found himself as head of the historic château.

Stephane soon enlisted the help of his cousin Jean de Mareuil. At the château, located between Lagrange and Labastide, the two continue the production techniques perfected by Gilles.

Seven hectares of vines are divided between Bacco, Folle Blanche and Colombard. Unlike many other Armagnac producers, Briat is a firm believer in keeping yields low and is not opposed to cutting fruit to give a final harvest of 60 hl/ha.

Colombard is a particular favorite, and the eau de vie is made strictly with this grape.

Briat Distillation and Aging

Each varietal is distilled separately to 52°, and all of the 10 barrels aged at the property during a given year see new wood. After two or three years, they are transferred to older casks and, apart from an airing once a year, left to rest in the spacious yet primitive chai.

Topping up is not practiced. At Briat, they prefer to let the level fall, promote air contact, and therefore create a spirit that is less aggressive. Assemblage of various grapes takes place after a minimum of four years and, at times, not until their 10th birthday.

A barrel of Hors d'Age aging in the Briat cellar
A barrel of Hors d'Age aging in the Briat cellar.

Château de Briat Tasting Notes

With the glass in hand, the Armagnacs of Briat do not let the consumer down. In fact, they epitomize the magical wonders that one can find floating in a glass of Gascon spirit.

As grape blends, barrels and vintage conditions vary, there is no standard that is replicated year after year. What is consistent is tremendous quality: always lots of nose, a rich palate feel, and excellent length.

-- Charles Neal, First published in 1999

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Map showing location of Chateau de Briat in the Armagnac region of France.
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Château de Briat

  • Proprietor: Alcofribas SARL
  • Hectares of vines in production: 8 sha (19.8 acres)
  • Grapes: Folle Blanche (45%), Bacco (38%), Colombard (17%)
  • Percent of Production Used for Distillation: 70%
  • Soil: Sables Fauves (iron-rich sand)
  • Production of Armagnac Per Year: 30 hl a.p. (15 barrels)
  • Distiller: St. Martin
  • Distillation: Armagnacaise
  • Distillation Degree upon Exiting the Still: 53° (106 proof)
  • Barrels: Limousin
  • Oldest Spirit Still in Cask: 1986
  • Youngest spirit in cask: 2006
  • Stock: 260 hl a.p. (130 barrels)
  • Blended Armagnacs Available: Hors d'Age (12 years old, 43°)
  • Vintages Available: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989
  • Reduction: No

Château de Briat 1987

65% Bacco, 35% Colombard.

Tasting Notes: Notes of plum, brown sugar, mashed almonds and spices on the nose. Soft palate feel without aggressiveness. Plum and a touch of dried apricot on the palate, with plenty of vanilla. Mouth-coating texture. Excellent length.

Château de Briat Hors d'Age

75% Bacco, 15% Folle Blanche, 10% Colombard. 44°. 12 years old.

Tasting Notes: Amber with extremely attractive legs. Supple, elegant texture holds notes of licorice, chocolate, toffee and oak. Excellent value.

Jean de Mareuil and Stephane de Luze
Jean de Mareuil and Stephane de Luze
Jean de Mareuil and Stephane de Luze
Jean de Mareuil and Stephane de Luze
Jean de Mareuil and Stephane de Luze
 

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