Château Arton: a haven of modernity and excellence in Haut-Armagnac. 

Focus on a terroir that had practically disappeared from the radar: Haut-Armagnac, which Château Arton is helping to bring back into the limelight with modernity.

After presenting Armagnac Castarède, one of the milestone in Bas-Armagnac, Monsieur Baco introduces you to the complete opposite: the young Château Arton and the lesser-known Haut-Armagnac terroir…


Back in Gascony, after working in Paris for several years, Patrick de Montal and Victoire de Montesquiou d’Artagnan returned to their roots by settling at Domaine d’Arton in 1978. Patrick de Montal first created a trading company with his cousin: Armagnac de Montal. Patrick devoted himself to distillation and quickly realized that the spirit coming out of the still retains the characteristics of each vintage. He therefore decided to market the first non-aged spirit of the region under the brand name of Fine Blanche® (which gave its name to the AOC Blanche d’Armagnac in 2005).

Patrick de Montal and Victoire de Montesquiou d’Artagnan. By Alexandre Toesca.
Patrick de Montal and Victoire de Montesquiou d’Artagnan. By Alexandre Toesca.

A journey to independence

Because of disagreements on the age of the Armagnacs that the trading house sold, the two cousins and associates split up and Patrick de Montal decided to replant vines in 1991 (the last harvest in Arton occured in 1914) in order to control the entire production chain of the Armagnac. It took him 10 years to claim back the parcels that were rented and to master the vinification process, an essential step in the production of quality spirits. The first home-made spirits were distilled in 2001 and the first Armagnac under the name Château Arton marketed in 2011. In 2017, the estate received the Prix d’Excellence of the Concours Général Agricole rewarding craftmanship and the best French spirit. It was the first time that this distinction was awarded to an Armagnac. 

The new generation

Today, the family-owned business is managed by Jean de Montal, his spouse Lili and Fabrice Saramon who has been the estate’s oenologist for the last 20 years. Two conditions were necessary for the takeover to happe: first, the couple had to live on the estate in order to be as close as possible to the land; second, the core business had to remain wine, because for the Montals, everything starts with the vine and the wine. As Lili explains, “the integrity of the wine serves the excellence of the Armagnac”. Moreover, the status of producer constitutes an advantage over that of the merchant in so far as the producer has the means to adapt his elaboration process: harvests, vinification… This generates a great traceability which allows the producer to understand and identify when something is going wrong and thus modify the making-process.

Jean de Montal, his épouse Lili and Fabrice Saramon
Jean de Montal, his épouse Lili and Fabrice Saramon

Haut-Armagnac, a demanding terroir

Located in Lectoure, in the geographical appellation area of Haut-Armagnac AOC, Château Arton is one of the few producers to keep this appellation alive, which almost disappeared when it was swept away by phylloxera plague. Indeed, although being the largest terroir of the appellation in surface, the vineyard of Haut-Armagnac, represents less than 2% of the total production of Armagnac. 

This vast terroir, higher in altitude (between 150 and 200m) than Bas-Armagnac, is composed of a wide variety of soils. In the East, the outcropping limestone rocks called “peyrusquets” dominate while the southwestern part outlining the Bas-Armagnac has soils similar to the tawny sands of the moors. 

On the limestone terroir of Haut-Armagnac, the vine takes 1 year longer to find water than on the other terroirs.

Limestone, Haut-Armagnac. By Letizia Cigliutti
Limestone, Haut-Armagnac. By Letizia Cigliutti

The vineyard of Château Arton

Château Arton has 15 hectares of vines for the production of Armagnac: ugni blanc (majority) and colombard. In 2023, 5 hectares of baco will be planted. 

Vineyard management 

As explained at the beginning, the quality of the wine is essential for the de Montal family. The vineyard of Château Arton is therefore cultivated in permaculture since 10 years. This implies for example that the vines are planted according to the contour lines of the land allowing a better distribution of water and nutrients. Ditches have been dug in order to capture rainwater and facilitate infiltration into the soil. In addition, 890 shrubs of 15 species were planted on the mounds next to the ditches. 

All wines will be certified organic in 2023 and biodynamic in 2024-2025

Contour lines of the land, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
Contour lines of the land

Innovation in the service of the vine

Always in this quest to obtain the best possible raw material, the estate takes care of its vines. This is achieved through collaboration with start-ups, notably Kapsera and Genodics

Thus, for the last 8 years, the estate has been playing melodies based on the natural frequencies of the vine. The vine is alive and therefore it has an immune system and generates proteins to protect itself from diseases. The Genodics laboratory has a department specialized on the vine where They have analyzed vines suffering from identified diseases and have captured the frequencies emitted by the vine when it is sick. The laboratory transposes these frequencies into sounds and diffuses them in the vineyard as a preventive measure to make the vine develop proteins, indicating that the disease is present. Château Arton play these sounds 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening from May to October. The music is played for sauvignon blanc and ugni blanc to prevent 2 diseases (esca and black dead arm). For each disease a different frequency.

Pragmatically, improvements have been noted in terms of yield, health (greener vines). Notwithstanding these observations, it is complicated to scientifically prove the cause and effect relationship of this process. Lili de Montal tells us that in 2020, Arton was hit hard by hail: in 15 minutes the whole colombard vines were destroyed. That year, Patrick de Montal noticed that a disease that had not appeared for years was back. He noticed that the loudspeaker had been destroyed by the hail and was no longer playing sounds…  

Speaker broadcasting sound frequencies, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
Speaker broadcasting sound frequencies

The making process


Because of the small volumes distilled, Château Arton has chosen to use mobile distillation rather than home distillation. For the past 21 years, the estate has collaborated with the mobile distiller Philippe Gironi and his traditional 13 plates gas heated still. 

The Fine Blanche® is made from colombard. Reaching 55° at the exit of the still, the blanche is reduced to 45° after a 6 months rest in stainless steel tanks. 


As for the aging and the selection of spirits, the domain proceeds in funnel. The grape varieties are aged separately. The newmake spirits are aged in new barrels for one and a half years in a dry cellar before being transferred to old barrels in a wet cellar. After 6 years, a first selection is made to determine which are the best spirits that will continue their ageing in single casks. The others will be blended and bottled as La Réserve. After 10 years, a second selection is made, the best Armagnacs will continue their ageing as single casks while the others will be assembled and bottled under the blend of the year: La Flamme. Today, only 2 Pièces Uniques (single casks) are marketed each year. As of 2012, the estate has begun to keep the ABV of Pièces Uniques at cask strength. 

Parcels should be bottled in 2023. 

The philosophy of Château Arton 

To intervene as little as possible, it is necessary to have first-class fundamentals. This is why most of the work is focused on the vine. For Château Arton, what makes a good armagnac is not its age but the quality of the wine and the producer’s ability to extract and enhance its substrate, the characteristics of each vintage. Each vintage can be bottled in 3 different Armagnacs: the blend (La Réserve), the blend of the year (La Flamme) or in the Pièce Unique (exceptional). Aging is not a guarantee of quality for the Montal-Montesquiou family. Thus, Château Arton’s expertise could be summed up as the quest of the Pièce Unique: 1 grape variety, 1 barrel, 1 year, no blending. 

The price logic is therefore in line with Château Arton’s vision of armagnac and with the process of elimination: prices do not change according to age or years but according to the degree of excellence. 

Market evolution

Vintage or not vintage?

The future of armagnac according to Château Arton is to foster the logic of vintages to stick to the wine culture. 80% of the demand for Armagnac is currently focused on blends. For Lili de Montal, it will therefore take time before the industry changes its perspective and reinforces the logic of vintage. In the short term, she believes that the key to Armagnac is the Blanche Armagnac which brings out all the aromas of the wine. “Enjoying Blanche is understanding the singularity of the Armagnac” as she likes to say.

Mixology: an opportunity

Mixology is also fundamental for the Armagnac industry because it is a way to make Armagnac known. For Lili, “it bounces off the creativity of all the bartenders”. She also believes that social networks, often decried in the political sphere, increase creativity in mixology. The Blanche is still a new product for many and remains the preferred choice for cocktails. 

Château Arton has collaborated with Le Syndicat (a cocktail bar in Paris) by incorporating Fine Blanche into 2 ready-to-drink cocktails in cans from the brand féfé: Armagnac Pornstar Martini (12°, 187ml, with passion fruit puree, vanilla infusion, tonka bean and clove) and the Fine à l’eau à la Blanche d’Armagnac (5°, 330ml, with strawberry and cocoa infusion). 

This allows a transition to a more festive, mobile, elegant, relaxed and healthy tasting. For Lili, it is a new moment of consumption

féfé, Pornstar Martini made with Fine Blanche, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
féfé, Pornstar Martini made with Fine Blanche


Since 2022, Arton has switched to an allocation logic. Germany and the USA are very fond of Château Arton’s cask strength armagnacs. Lili explains that the international demand is quite sharp while the French market (30% of sales) does not show the same requirement. The Chinese market is complicated for Arton because the estate does not endorse the traditional storytelling based on ancient vintages and the History of France that is popular there. South-East Asia, Japan and Taiwan are also interesting markets for the brand. Château Arton is distributed in France by L’Explorateur du goût. 

Technical specifications

  • Terroir: chalky soils of Haut-Armagnac AOC.
  • Vineyard: 15 hectars dedicated to the production of Armagnac, grown in permaculture and currently converting to organic and biodynamic.
  • Grapes: ugni blanc in majority, colombard (mainly used to produce Fine Blanche®) and 5 hectars of baco (starting in 2023). 
  • Distillation: Philippe Gironi’s gas-heated mobile still with 13 plates.
  • Aging process: 1 year and a half in new casks in a dry cellar then the spirits are placed in old casks in a we cellar. 

Tasting notes

The 4 samples were kindly provided by the estate for free and were tasted in the same tulip glass over similar periods of time (30min-1h). The spirits presented beneath can be purchased directly from the producer’s website.

Château Arton, Fine Blanche® 2019

Fine Blanche, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
  • Designation of origin: Blanche Armagnac
  • Grape: colombard
  • ABV: 45°
  • Price: 46€

Color: transparent.

Nose: the foreground is marked by notes of citrus (grapefruit, bergamot) and white flowers (jasmine, pittosporum). In the background, a more suave register (sugar brioche,’berlingots’ candies) appears, completed by discreet aniseed notes and a hint of oregano in the background. 

Mouth: the attack is rather mellow. The mid-palate is marked by aniseed notes, sweet (sugar syrup, ‘berlingots’ again). The finish is warm and long on black pepper and a touch of coffee. 

Château Arton, La Réserve

La Réserve, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
  • Designation of origin: Haut-Armagnac AOC
  • Grapes: ugni blanc, colombard
  • Blending: blend of multiple vintages
  • Age: 6 years old minimum
  • ABV: 45°
  • Prices: 66€ for 50cl / 79€ for 70cl / 153€ for 150cl 

Color: amber.

Nose: the foreground is marked by notes of old book, vanilla, candied orange, quince and gingerbread. The second ground is marked by notes of dried figs, mirabelle plums, cherry jam, cigar box and dried fruits. Vegetal notes of verbena complete the nose in the background. A spicy frame (nutmeg, ginger) supports the whole. 

Mouth: the attack is moderate. The mid-palate is rather dry with notes of blond caramel, violet, roasted hazelnuts and apricot jam. The finish is warm, relatively long, fresh and fruity. 

Château Arton, La Flamme 2013

La Flamme 2011, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
  • Designation of Origin: Haut-Armagnac AOC
  • Grape: ugni blanc
  • Blending: 2013 vintage only
  • ABV: 50.5° (cask strength)
  • Prices: 91€ the 50cl / 109€ the 70cl / 213€ the 150cl

Color: amber.

Nose: opens with notes of caramel mixed with a hint of humus and a woody register (varnished wood, woodwork) and nuts. The second ground is spicier (camphor, white pepper, roasted coffee beans, cocoa, clove) and asserts itself with time. Some discrete fruity notes can be found in the background with notes of quince, roasted pears with butter, stewed cherries. A very light touch of aromatic herbs (rosemary) completes the nose. 

Mouth: the attack is rather frank. The mid-palate is musky and fruity (juniper, blueberries) and slightly camphorated. The whole is rather fresh and is completed by some spicy notes (ginger, cinnamon). The finish is rather long and warm on woody and spicy notes. 

Château Arton, Pièce Unique 2011

Pièce Unique 2011, Château Arton, Haut-Armagnac
  • Designation of Origin: Haut-Armagnac AOC
  • Grape: ugni blanc
  • Blending: one single cask (2011 vintage), no blending.
  • ABV: 45°
  • Prices: 189€ the 50cl / 229€ the 70cl

Color: amber.

Nose: the foreground opens on some notes of varnish then beeswax, pollen, chamomile. On the second ground, fruit notes stand out (orange, pineapple, tropical fruits). More spicy notes (ginger, nutmeg) complete the ensemble in the background. With aeration, the woody register asserts itself and is adorned with a certain freshness (cedar, eucalyptus, caraway). 

Mouth: the attack is moderate. The mid-palate is rather dry with notes of caraway, liquorice, dried fruits, caramel. A slight mentholated freshness runs through the whole. The finish is long and warm, with notes of white pepper and is supported by a light bitterness.


All the samples tasted are of real quality and show a certain complexity and depth. The Fine Blanche is delicious, La Réserve is very complete organoleptically speaking. La Flamme plays the character card while the Pièce Unique shows refinement, precision and balance. I find the prices high (especially at the top of the range) but the logic of the price per degree of quality is interesting. Château Arton, by their mastery of the vineyard and their high standards, place the lesser-known terroir of Haut-Armagnac not in the ‘center of the village’ but on top of it. At last, this terroir shines again…

In a nutshell

If one had to associate one word with Château Arton, it would certainly be ‘modernity’. Indeed, unlike most estates that play the tradition card and emphasize their deep historic roots of several centuries, the (relatively) young estate, pioneer in the marketing of Blanche d’Armagnac, focuses its endeavours on a meticulous work of the vine (15 hectars in permaculture) and on modern and innovative techniques in order to obtain a wine of the first quality. A strict selection during the ageing process completes the brand’s quest for excellence and gives birth to a short range, articulated around four products (a blanche, a blend, a vintage blend and a pièce unique).  

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