a family's story
The Lacave family has taken turns at the head of the Domaine de Jouatmaou for three generations now. From the 1930s until today, everyone has brought their stone to the building, devoting an extraordinary devotion to the cult of Grand Bas- Armagnac.
Forty years separates each generation precisely: from the arrival of her grandfather Roger at the estate in 1934 to the takeover by her parents Bernard and Marie-lise in 1974, Nelly officially became the new boss of Jouatmaou in 2014. Three generations who worked still hand in hand until 2001 before Roger left the adventure he started almost a century ago. It was he who poured the first drops of Armagnac upon his return from the war in 1939 and who distilled his passion to all his family. It is even thanks to his production of armagnac that he will buy the property, enlarge it, preparing a future all mapped out for Nelly, who is determined to continue the family business.
The property now has nearly sixty hectares of which eight are dedicated to vines: three and a half hectares of Baco grape variety (including 1.93 hectares of very old vines dating from 1963) especially and only intended for the production of Armagnac, but also Folle Blanche. At the same time, Nelly cultivates other white and red grape varieties which she uses to make an Armagnac-based aperitif, as well as corn, sunflower and around ten hectares of hazelnut trees.
Here, the work in the vines begins in January, a period when the whole family is involved. A mainly manual work where traditional gestures are repeated immutably until summer and find their peak in a plot of old Baco vines, planted by Roger in 1963. A plot which holds a very special place for Nelly and whose vines are layered to extend the story.
When harvest time comes, the harvest is done by machine before the grapes are pressed in the cellar and left to ferment in an entirely natural way for ten days. It is then the turn of nomad distiller Patrick Mogni, accompanied by his son Xavier, to get into action to distill the estate's harvest: in order to remain consistent with habits and customs, Nelly favors a distillate between 55 and 58%, which will allow her to age five to seven barrels of Armagnac depending on the year and the vagaries of the weather. The Baco and Folle Blanche wines, historically blended together, have been separated since 2016 in part in order to see the evolutions specific to each grape variety. The barreling, as in his grandfather's time, is done directly at the exit of the still and without any dilution. The Armagnac will then remain for at least one year in new barrels before moving to old barrels for the rest of its existence.
Probably unique in Armagnac, the cellar is located under the family house, a mansion dating from 1795 and whose underground cellar was originally used by the house staff to do the cooking. A dream location for the estate’s very first cask of Armagnac, which will rest there on a certain day of the year 1939. Roger, and after him Bernard and Marie-Lise, thus had the extreme privilege of literally sleeping on a flourishing stock of Armagnac. Ideally located on a dirt floor, the humidity which fluctuates between 70 and 80% also offers shelter and cover to the mycelium which has long since replaced the house staff.
A little less than a hundred barrels are currently resting there, some of which are made with the oaks of the property cut by Roger himself and mounted by Mr Bartholomo, whose grandson still continues the activity of cooper. Five barrels were even made in 2016 from oak staves kept for forty years by Nelly and her family. One more treasure that rests here below and that there is no doubt about it, will allow both the story and the presence of Roger to drag on a little longer.