La Charme du Pays Gascogne

The simple life. Simple needs. Simple pleasures. A loaf of fresh bread. A plate of fois gras. A glass of rosé with lunch and a small serving of Armagnac afterward. That's life in Gascony—you do a little work, you take a little break. You enjoy the simple things of existence—the things that make living worthwhile. While many Americans continue to be intimidated (and therefore put off) by the refinements of the French lifestyle, there's nothing snooty or highbrow about la vie de Gascogne. The people of Château de Pellehaut, for example, are no different than you and me. The Béraut family lives a simple life in the countryside of the Ténereze, not far from the small village of Montreal-du-Gers. They like to sit outside, eat, drink, and talk just like us. Their wines are not expensive, nor are their brandies. They are humble, but well-made necessities of living.

But, of course, you know all this. You've been buying Pellehaut from us for almost ten years at this point. You've been sipping on their K&L exclusive selections since 2011. Their fifteen year old vintage expressions cost fifty bucks. Their everyday "L'Age de Glace" is a laughable twenty-seven. These are not men looking to conquer the spirits industry and become the next multinational conglomerate. They are farmers who look to quench their thirst after a long day working the land. Pellehaut is only hoping to share that hardworking spirit (literally) with their fellow man.

I know many of us look at Bourbon as the spirit of the American working class, but to me Armagnac is the ultimate brown water of the blue collar. It's the last major booze-producing region completely without corporate investments and it's a spirit made by the people, for the people (while Kentucky is half foreign-owned at this point). It's an unpolished manifestation of the hard work and paysanne panache these farmers exude, each sip a robust reminder. So I invite you to live the simple life along with me. Get a loaf of crusty bread. Make a simple meal. Have a beer or a glass of wine. Then pour yourself a glass of this:

Château de Pellehaut "L'Age de Glace" Ténerèze Armagnac $27.99 - Chateau Pellehaut has been one of our top direct imports for the past year here at K&L. We've visited the Ténarèze producer twice over the past few years, always finding something new to bring home for our brandy fans. What really excited us this year, however, was a new project they were working on called L'Age de Glace: a young brandy meant to drink on the rocks (hence the name "Ice Age"). The fruit of the Armagnac takes center stage here, melding wonderfully with the small hint of vanilla from the wood. It's all distilled from Folle Blanche fruit and it's soft, round and aromatic, but it still has that little bit of rustic brandy flavor that I associate with old-school Armagnac. At 41%, it's light and easy going, but there's still a lot of character. I have a feeling I'll personally be going through bottles of this; lots and lots of bottles. 

2001 Château de Pellehaut 15 Year Old Ténerèze Armagnac $49.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic Armagnac style. Using only new or first-fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice. The 2001 vintage is going to be a bourbon-drinker's delight: there's a rich, round mouthfeel of charred oak and creamy vanilla, supplemented with more texture from the raisined fruit. It's anchored entirely in richness, and there's plenty of spice on the finish to keep it interesting. Distilled from 100% Folle Blanche (a more flavorful and complex varietal for Armagnac) it's a slam-dunk deal if there ever was one.

There sure as hell ain't no fifteen year old American whiskey for $49.99. But, don't worry: the folks in France's pays de Gascogne have you covered.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll