Vineyard acreage: 300 acres (including 24 acres in Grande Champagne)
Grape variety: Ugni blanc and some Folle blanche in Grande Champagne
Annual sales cognac: 350,000 bottles

 

P43The Vallet family have been winemakers and distillers for six generations and the cognac house is a showpiece of continuity and stable family traditions. The property has not only been handed down from generation to generation in an unbroken chain but all the sons have also had the opportunity of working side by side with their fathers during decades. Château Montifaud is today one of the largest fully independent cognac producers in Petite Champagne. Most of the vineyards are located around the small village of Jarnac-Champagne a few minutes’ drive northwest of Archiac.


The family story begins in 1837 when Augustin Vallet sets up a small 7-acre vineyard. Ten years later, the estate has quadrupled and Augustin decides to buy three small three-hectolitre stills and thus becomes his own bouilleur de cru. Augustin begins to distil for himself and for his neighbours and after two decades of hard work he succeeds in building up a small fortune that makes it possible for him and his family to erect a small manor house. In 1866 he registers his property under the castle name Montifaud, the year that the family also counts as the starting year of their cognac house.

The years around the turn of the century is a period of growth for Château Montifaud. The family can afford to invest in new stills and a few decades later, in the 1930s, Maurice Vallet, the third generation, becomes one of the first in the region to start with direct sales on a small scale. During the Nazi German occupation the Vallet family succeeds in maintaining their production until New Year’s Eve 1943 when Cognac and its surroundings are bombed by the Allies. The Vallet estate has the misfortune of being particularly affected when the mansion is destroyed and four fifths of vineyards are damaged. Luckily, the ageing cellars with its stocks of old eaux-de-vie, are left undamaged. After the war Maurice builds a new family home, albeit in a more modest style than the former.

The fourth generation, Louis and his wife Micheline, continues to expand the cultivated area, develops sales in bottle and starts exporting to countries like England, Germany and the United States. When the fifth generation, Michel and his wife Catherine, takes over in the 1970s, the vineyards are expanded even further. The couple takes the final step to make the firm fully independent and expands their customer base during the last decades of the 20th century to include Canada, Asia and Scandinavia. When the sixth generation, Laurent, joins the business Château Montifaud is entirely independent.

Today the family owns a total of 270 acres of vineyards in Petite Champagne. The latest acquisition of land is made as late as in 2014 when 50 acres were purchased. Since 1990, the house is also the owner of 25 acres in Grande Champagne, but the eaux-de-vie from the two districts are never mixed.

P44The cognac range currently includes nine Petite Champagne and two Grande Champagne. In addition to the classic range from the VS to the Extra, the family also has a number of exclusive older cognacs and some millésimes. The house uses new casks with caution so most Montifaud cognacs have a beautiful pale yellow color and they are all smooth, floral and fruity. More elegance than power, you could say. The VSOP has been aged for 8–10 years and the XO for 30 years. A majority of the older cognacs, from the XO level, have in fact never seen the insides of new casks.


Approximately 4 % of the production is sold to wine shops and restaurants in France, while the rest is exported primarily to Russia, Norway, Holland and Germany. The Norwegian market is perhaps closest to the family heart. During their many travels in Norway they made many friends.

 

This is an abridged version of a translation of pages 114-115 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 2015-11-12

 

 

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