Armagnac

Armagnac is the oldest Brandy to be produced in France and comes from the Armagnac region in Gascony.

Armagnac has a much lower commercial profile than its big brother Cognac and is mainly distilled by small producers wheras Cognac is dominated by the big brands.

Region & "Terroir"   History   Grapes   Production   Age Statements

 

Vinyards in Armagnac

Vinyard in Armagnac

attribution: wikipedia user Jibi44 

 The Armaganc Region

 Armagnac region

The Armagnac Region & “Terroir”

The Armagnac region lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees and contains 40,000 acres (160 km²) of grape-producing vines. It is divided into three main areas:

Bas-Armagnac

Armagnac-Ténarèze

Haut-Armagnac

The best quality spirit comes from the first two and each area of is governed by its own AOC or (apellation D’Origine Controlee). Strict regulations must be adhered to.

A new apellation - Blanche d'Armagnac was recently established to allow the production and export of un-aged clear, white brandies.

“Terroir” (Soil)

Bas Armagnac has a sand & clay soil, resulting in a more subtle and relatively quick maturing eau de vie

Teneraze has more chalk & produces a more rounded & aromatic, fruity style

History of Armagnac

Armagnac was the first French brandy. Believed to have been distilled by the Moors in the in the 12th century. Lack of transport to and from the region meant that it remained a local drink until Dutch merchants began exporting it in the 17th century.

 Francois Baco

Francois Baco breeder of the Baco 22A Grape

Columbard GrapesAttribution: Pancrat

Grapes Varieties used for Armagnac

Up to twelve different varieties of Armagnac grapes can be used for the production of Armagnac. The most widely used are:

Baco 22A  a very dry and often tartly acidic wine that pairs well with shellfish.

Colombard   a fruity white wine of interesting character in both dry and sweet versions

Folle Blanche  same as baco

Ugni Blanc   undistinguished wine at best. It can be fresh and fruity, but does not keep long. Its high acidity makes it important in Cognac production

Arangnac Production

The majority of distillers use alembic armagnacais or tiny column stills for their distillation. Unlike Cognac, It is traditionally distilled once, and the tiny stills result in smaller quantities, of a lower alcohol and slightly harsher spirit than Cognac, which is normally double distilled. However, the subsequent long ageing of Armagnac in oak casks produces a spirit with a rich pruney fruitiness and earthy character.

Armagnac, like Cognac is first aged for a year in new barrels and then transferred into old ones. Distillations from different vines and/or regions are barrelled and stored separately allowing the producer to release vintage Armagnacs. Some spirit may be taken from a barrel each year, over a number of years. It is therefore important to look for a bottling date in order to ascertain the true age of the spirit. Like whisky, once bottled Armagnac ceases to age. Young Armagnacs are produced but are artificially flavoured with caramel and wood chips.

 

Alembic Still Diagram Alembic Still Diagram

   

Age Statements & Classifications

Like single malt whisky, when brandies of different ages have been blended, the age on the bottle refers to the youngest component.

*** or "VS": a mix of several Armagnacs that have seen at least two years of aging in wood.

VSOP: Aged at least five years

XO: Aged least six years.

Hors d'âge: the youngest component in the blend is at least ten years old.

Vintage: States the year of distillation. (Check bottling date for the actual age)