Château de Pellehaut Côtes de Gascogne
Pellehaut, named from the roman pila haut (high point), is located at 180 meters altitude overlooking the quaint village of Montréal-du-Gers. It's owned by the Béraut family.
Gaston Béraut oversees the domaine, which also includes cattle, wheat and sunflowers. One son, Martin, is the vineyard manager, who is commonly found between the vines. His other son, Mathieu, is the winemaker.
With 250 hectares (617 acres) planted, the Bérauts have some of the largest vineyard holdings in the Côtes de Gascogne region of southwestern France. With so much turf comes different types of soil, including mixtures of clay and limestone along with sand interspersed with small limestone pieces.
The vines at Pellehaut are planted on the slopes of the rolling hills, with the lower land being reserved for the other crops as well as grazing ground for their blonde d'Aquitaine breed of cattle. The cows eat the grass and the property's hay during the winter and their manure is used to nourish the vineyard, enabling the Bérauts to nourish the earth without synthetic fertilizers.
Just a mile and a half away is the Gallo-Roman villa Séviac, the third most visited site in the Gers département. Discovered by a farmer plowing his fields several decades ago, its intricate mosaics have been preserved to their original splendor of the fifth century AD. Some feature vines, and it is entirely probable that vines were planted on the slopes of Pellehaut 1,500 years ago!
Mathieu Béraut Refines the Wine
Winemaker Mathieu studied under Yves Grassa at nearby Château de Tariquet, as well as at Château Beycheville in Bordeaux and, during one harvest in the 1990s, was Jim Clendenon's right-hand man at Au Bon Climat in southern California.
During the mid-1990s, a large quantity of wine was produced at Pellehaut, but nearly all of it was sold in bulk (at a high price) to négociants who would then bottle the wine with a different label. Bottling their own wine didn't appeal much to the Béraut family, as it took too much effort to sell it to a private market afterwards.
The Bérauts knew, however, that it was important to bottle their own product to get respect within the wine world. Mathieu particularly wanted to put some of his studies to better use than selling vat after vat of wine to an unknown clientele.
So little by little, Mathieu began bottling more wine and experimenting with various blends using a combination of tank and barrel aging. On the property he had plenty of grapes to choose from: Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche (notable distillation grapes), Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gros and Petit Manseng, Tannat, and Merlot.
Some blends were studies that have disappeared, others became regular releases. The cuvée Harmonie is Pellehaut's most popular wine and must be considered as one of the best values on the market.
The white is made with a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gros Manseng. With a cool fermentation and aging sur lie, the wine exhibits qualities of more expensive wines from the Loire Valley while retaining the crisp, floral snap that Côtes de Gascogne wines are known for.
The red wines are normally blends of Merlot and Tannat, the supple fruitiness of the former with the structured richness of the latter.
Cuvée Harmonie is made in tank and great for everyday drinking in a wide range of settings.
A blend of 70% Tannat and 30% Merlot and aged in quality oak for 18 months, Les Marcottes is more serious and best with some serious protein on the table. This wine is made with the oldest vines on the property with low yields that give excellent concentration.
Other Pellehaut Blends
Symphonie is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gros Manseng with barrel fermentation. L'été Gascon (the Gascon summer) is an off-dry blend of Gros Manseng and Chardonnay. Ampelomeryx is a blend of Chardonnay and Petit Manseng, fermented and aged in new oak.