Not generally accessible
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P.Grassa Fille & Fils,
Owned and operated by the Grassa family, Château du Tariquet was built in 1683 with its vineyards bordering Eauze, recognised as being one of the very best areas of the Bas-Armagnac region.
Tariquet was purchased in 1912 by the Artuad family. Before setting their sights on the picturesque property the family had travelled and lived in America, although originally hailed from the village of Ercé, at the foot of the Pyrenees, in Ariège. Their profession, far from brandy producers, was of bear trainers.
Emigrating away from 19th century rural France, which was struggling to provide food to the inhabitants, they were in search of finding a better future, alongside their two bears.
When he started to miss home the youngest Artaud returned to France and decided to buy Tariquet along with his son, Jean-Pierre. Jean-Pierre stayed in New York with his wife Pauline and worked as a bartender. When they first purchased the property the majority of the vines had been destroyed by phylloxera leaving just seven hectares of vineyards in a dilapidated state. The father started to produce brandy but also had cows and pigs.
Unfortunately the timing could not have been worse and just two years after Tariquet was bought war marched into France. Jean-Pierre Artaud left New York to fight for France and sustained a bayonet wound in hand to hand combat. The amount of blood he lost was so great that he suffered from memory loss and remained in hospital in France until 1922.
Pauline, who was also originally from Ariège, went to the docks each time a boat that came in from Le Havre, hoping to see her husband amongst the passengers. Tragically when he did finally return Jean-Pierre was scared from the war and apparently hardly recognisable. Returning to France they had a daughter, Hélène.
It was the Second World War that shaped the next stage in Tariquet’s history and involved a man named Pierre Grassa, who was born in France to Spanish parents from the Sierra de Guara, which is merely on the other side of the Pyrenees. He had grown up as a cowherd and manual labourer and eventually found work in Bordeaux in a hairdressing salon. But 1939 he and Pierre joined up to fight, eventually being taken prisoner with his battalion. He managed to escape captivity and joined the Resistance in South West France, in Éauze which is the closest town to the vineyards of Tariquet.
Predictably, Pierre and Hélène’s married and had four children, Maïté, Christiane, Françoise and Yves. At the same time as raising four children in post-war Europe they manage to restore the château and property and began producing Bas-Armagnac brandies.
Maïté and Yves chose to remain working on the property and in 1972 Pierre, Maïté and Yves created their first company. Ten years later started to make white wines. The first year they made 20,000 butts and Pierre said we will drink that wine until we die. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Nowadays it is Yves’s sons who have taken on the family business, Armin and Rémy. “Let us teach our children to disobey” – said my French philosopher Michel Serres has become the family motto and indeed breaking the rules is where they excel.
The site of Tariquet couldn’t be more different to when it was first purchased back in 1912. There are modern glass buildings amongst the sandstone-coloured traditional French stone, a shining white tasting room that overlooks the army of workers moving through the vines and stainless steel tanks for pressing, fermentation and water filtration.