Words from Armagnac: Maître de chai

A skilled craftsman, the cellar master exudes an aura of mystery around him.  Though however captivating the idea of the silhouette in the shade of the barrels, the reality is far from this storybook image and doesn’t say enough about the responsibility of the one that brings Armagnac to its ultimate maturity. Responsible for producing the eaux-de-vie, he is the master of the house, knowledge and time.

During the aging, no decisions are made without him.  Observing the union between the eau-de-vie and the wood, he is also a tutor: he decides on the course of each sample according to the subtle balance that he adjusts on a daily basis.  Armed with his pipette, he collects samples, smells and tastes, then mixes, aerates, fills, transfers… shaping the various eaux-de-vie as he goes. Helped by his nose and his palate, his experience, and his instinct, he assesses the synergies and works on the blends.

His decisions are a continuation of a preserved craft.  When he treads on the beaten earth and crosses between the rows of barrels, he is walking in the footsteps of his predecessors, perpetuating the savoir-faire and enriching the signature. The profession is based on the transmission of codes, secrets, and gestures from one generation to another. He doesn’t study with books, but in the quiet of the cellars with his nose hovering over a glass. To this heritage he adds his audacity, his creativity and his breath, to make an Armagnac in his image.

The cellar master is, therefore, a visionary: his role is to preserve the treasures of the past, put into barrels before him and to prepare their future. He is the judge of the time an eau-de-vie needs in order to fully express itself and correspond to the house style.  To be a cellar master means to be patient and confident; knowing that some of the eaux-de-vie conceived, shaped and cosseted will be bottled by someone else.

In all humbleness, a cellar master is defined as a craftsman, but above all, he is an artist: following the rule book learnt from his elders, he adds his personal touch and models his eaux-de-vie according to his own talents.  He tests, changes, imagines and plays with all the instruments until he obtains the harmony that he is looking for.  Master of his work, when the finished Armagnac leaves his cellar he will let his legacy go.

Source BNIA