Vineyard acreage: 227 acres (92 hectares)
Grape variety: Folle blanche, Montils and Colombard
Annual sales cognac: 50 000 bottles

 

P63One of the essential day trips to do when you visit Cognac is the scenic drive down to the Fins Bois enclave in the southwest. Set your GPS for the small village of Saint-Dizant-du-Gua and after an hour’s drive you are there. Here, not far from Europe’s largest estuary, Gironde, you will find the castle and cognac producer Château de Beaulon, an exceptional property, worth a trip of its own for more than one reason.

The magnificent castle was built in the 1480s and is classified as a cultural and a historical heritage site. The adjoining 33-acre park includes a number of underground springs that form small ponds in a supernatural blue colour, the so-called Fontaines bleues. A network of narrow canals link the ponds together and let the water slowly run between them. On cloudless days sunlight peers down through the canopy and reflects in the ponds which reinforces the enchanting, almost surreal impression.

Château de Beaulon is especially renowned for its excellent and award-winning pineaus of which they annually sell a quarter of a million bottles, but this cognac producer also distinguishes itself by being the only one where the grape variety Ugni blanc does not play the lead role. On a total of 227 acres of vineyards grapes are cultivated for brandy production in about three-quarters. Currently four varieties are used: Folle blanche and Montils cover most of the growing area, while Ugni blanc share the remaining acreage with Colombard. Ugni blanc is not included in any of the house cognacs but is distilled to be used in the production of Pineau des Charentes.

The youngest cognac of Château de Beaulon is a seven-year-old pure Folle blanche, a real rarity in the cognac world. The rest of the range is perhaps even more exciting and unusual as it invariably consists of assemblages of the grape varieties Folle blanche, Colombard and Montils. The youngest consists of a blend of at least twelve-year-old eaux-de-vie, a rich, mellow and fruity cognac with a very nice aftertaste. The castle’s twenty-year-old is called Napoléon and is somewhat more powerful than the previous. Besides this basic assortment the cognac house also offers a number of exclusive vintage cognacs in the higher-end range.

P64During our visit at the Château de Beaulon we spend a couple of hours in the company of the castle owner Christian Thomas. As far as he knows, wine has been cultivated at the estate for at least four hundred years and the castle has been producing eaux-de-vie since at least 1721. In 1965, only 32 years old, Christian Thomas took over the ownership of the castle and has since then made it the mission of his life. The concept of la culture raisonnée, to make the smallest possible use of chemical products in the vineyard, is very important to him. As an example, he uses minced fish waste from the coast as a fertilizer.

The different grape varieties are all harvested within a three-week period and always in the same order. First you gather the Folle blanche, then Sémillon for the white pineaus and Merlot for the red. Next it is time for Colombard and Montils and the last one to be harvested is Ugni blanc. Christian Thomas does not mind if his wines reach 10 to 11 per cent ABV before distillation and he prefers to distill with a portion of the lees, but not all of it. Most of the production is exported, primarily to Asia and Russia.

The cognac world would be a lot more boring if it were not for Château de Beaulon and a visit here is a must for cognac lovers! Best buy is probably the small wooden box with the three 20 cl bottles that represents a selection of the most interesting the castle has to offer.

This is an abridged version of a translation into English of pages 138–139 of the Swedish book Cognac – kungen av eau-de-vier (Cognac – the king of eaux-de-vie) © Stevali Production and Gunnar Svedberg, 2014.
© Gunnar Svedberg 2015-02-02

 

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