Château Laballe

In 1820, Jean-Dominique Laudet returned from twenty years of spice trading in the Caribbean and decided to fulfill his dream: to spend the rest of his life producing Armagnac, the oldest French spirit. He acquired Château Laballe on the edge of the Landes and the Gers, in a region once called Grand Bas Armagnac. Back then the estate consisted of 600 hectares of forest and farmland with 120 people working it, although Jean-Dominique was undaunted by the scale of this undertaking thanks to his desire to produce Armagnac.

Due to Jean-Dominique's expertise and to the exceptional quality of his eaux-de-vie, the Armagnacs of the Château Laballe soon became widely known and appreciated; to such an extent that, in 1829, Jean-Dominique exported 200 barrels of Armagnac to New York. From then on, his passion was passed on from father to son: Jean-Dominique, Alexandre, Julien, Fernand, Robert, Noel, and Christian maintained the family’s knowledge and experience over the years and centuries, each of them bringing his personal touch to the business.

The biggest changes were introduced by Noël Laudet in the 1970s. Formerly steward of Château Beychevelle in Bordeaux, he brought a new dimension to the Laballe estate: dry white wine. With the skills he had gleaned in Bordeaux, he diversified production away from solely Armagnac and began making dry white wines to the same high standard of those he had encountered at his previous château.

Today, Cyril Laudet is the 8th generation of his family to run Château Laballe, and he has taken up the reins along with his wife Julie. Since they took over the property, Cyril and Julie have extended the range and now offer dry and sweet white wines, rosé wines and red wines with three different appellations. Their ambition is to honour the Laudet family's legacy whilst imparting their own contemporary influence and a desire to excel upon the estate, the Armagnacs, and the wines of Laballe.

The vineyards are situated on a unique parcel of land called Sables Fauves (tawny sands), entirely owned by Château Laballe. These soils are well known for producing high quality brandies in the Bas-Armagnac region, but the Laballe estate was the first to produce wine here. The gentle slopes of silt, clay and sediment that form the Sables Fauves also contain a high proportion of iron oxide that provides a decisive mineral freshness. The Laudets utilise reasoned viticulture, balancing their respect for the environment with the climatic constraints of the region. The soils are worked regularly to extract the most of their character and to give an identity to the wines.

Today the estate is about 17 hectares in size, but to expand the estate's portfolio Cyril Laudet also works closely with the neighbouring vineyards. He monitors and manages the winemaking as meticulously as he does in his own cellar. Harvesting is done at night or early in the morning, especially for the white grape varieties so that they retain all of the freshness that can be tasted in the wines. Each grape variety is vinified separately and each is chosen for a blend according to its specific aromas and characteristics.

Wines made from vineyards growing in the thin strip of Sables Fauves are entitled to use either the Terroirs Landais appellation or that of Côtes de Gascogne, the wider appellation of the southwest of France which covers a far wider area. Laballe produces a range of wines in both of these appellations as well as in nearby Tursan.
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