Chapter 5.1.General View on Armagnac

Armagnac (French pronunciation[aʁmaˈɲak]) is a distinctive kind of brandy or eau de vie produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of Armagnac grapes, including Baco 22A, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc, using column stills rather than the pot stills used in the production of Cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before release. Production is overseen by INAO and the Bureau National Interprofessionel de l’Armagnac (BNIA).

Armagnac was one of the first areas in France to begin distilling spirits, but the brandies produced have a lower profile than those from Cognac and the overall volume of production is far smaller. In addition they are for the most part made and sold by small producers, whereas in Cognac production is dominated by big-name brands.

History

Map of Armagnac Region

Armagnac is the oldest brandy distilled in France, and in the past was consumed for its therapeutic benefits. In the 14th century, Prior Vital Du Four, a Cardinal, claimed it had 40 virtues.

“It makes disappear redness and burning of the eyes, and stops them from tearing; it cures hepatitis, sober consumption adhering. It cures gout, cankers, and fistula by ingestion; restores the paralysed member by massage; and heals wounds of the skin by application. It enlivens the spirit, partaken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and retards senility. And when retained in the mouth, it loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit, if someone timid from time to time himself permits.”

Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Armagnac was traded on the markets of Saint-Sever, Mont-de-Marsan, and Aire-sur-l’Adour. Subsequently, Dutch merchants began promoting the trade more widely.

Geography

The Armagnac region lies between the Adour and Garonne rivers in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The region was granted AOC status in 1936. The official production area is divided into three districts that lie in the departements of Gers, Landes, and Lot-et-Garonne. The region contains 40,000 acres (160 km²) of grape-producing vines.The May 25, 1909 Falliere’s decree describes the three districts:

Each of these areas is controlled by separate appellation regulations. More recently, a new appellation—”Blanche d’Armagnac“—was established to allow the production and export of clear, white brandies that are unaged.

Production

Armagnac is traditionally distilled once, which results initially in a less polished spirit than Cognac, where double distillation usually takes place. However, long aging in oak barrels softens the taste and causes the development of more complex flavours and a brown colour. Aging in the barrel removes a part of the alcohol and water by evaporation (known as part des anges—”angels’ tribute” or “angels’ share”) and allows more complex aromatic compounds to appear by oxidation, which further improves the flavour. When the alcohol reaches 40%, the Armagnac can be transferred to large glass bottles (called “Dame Jeanne”) for storage. From then on, the Armagnac does not age or develop further and can be bottled for sale from the next year on.

Armagnac is sold under several different classifications, mostly referring to the age of the constituent brandies. When brandies of different ages have been blended, the age on the bottle refers to the youngest component. A three star, or “VS,” Armagnac is a mix of several Armagnacs that have seen at least two years of aging in wood. For the VSOP, the aging is at least five years; and for XO, at least six. Hors d’âge means the youngest component in the blend is at least ten years old. Older and better Armagnacs are often sold as vintages, with the bottles containing Armagnac from a single year, the year being noted on the bottle.

As with any “eau de vie,” Armagnac should be stored vertically to avoid damaging the stopper with alcohol. Once opened, a bottle should stay drinkable for years.

Grapes

Ten different varieties of Armagnac grapes are authorised for use in the production of Armagnac. Of these, four form the principal part: Armagnac Grapes:

Armagnac can also be added to other ingredients to produce liquors that are sold as another drink – the German company Vom Fass produces fruit liquors with Armagnac (they are about 16% alcohol).

Health benefits

Research conducted by scientists at Bordeaux University in 2007 suggested that Armagnac has health benefits, finding that moderate consumption can help protect against heart disease and obesity. The research seemed to indicate that the benefits derived from its unique distillation process and aging rather than from its alcoholic content. The southwestern area of France, where Armagnac is produced, has some of the lowest cardiovascular disease rates in the world.

Synonymous with quality, family and tradition, the Darroze name has now been added to a unique new range of Armagnac blends called Les Grands Assemblages.

Traditionally known for its unique range of single estate Bas-Armagnacs where the company works with approximately 30 different individual estates, this new range adds a different dimension to the diverse products and styles on offer.

Grown out of several reasons, including a demand from customers looking for younger armagnacs of the highest quality that are good value for money, Les Grands Assemblages can respond to this need particularly with the 8 year old which is the youngest in the range.

For several generations, the Darroze family has been searching out and selecting the finest Bas-Armagnacs, yet nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to find top quality old vintages, although Darroze is still able to source wonderful old blended eaux-de-vie that have therefore forfeited their original vintage.  A vintage being an armagnac that is 100% produced from that one year only.

Les Grands Assemblages consists of seven extremely well balanced, high quality Bas-Armagnacs with great character.  The younger the blend, the more aromas of fruit, whilst the older the armagnac, more  the notes of ageing will take over.  Each of the blends has been selected from the Bas-Armagnac area from different estates to those used for the single estate range.  The age on the bottle indicates the age of the youngest armagnac in the blend.

8 year old (43%) –  This blend with very little wood influence displays a predominance of fruity aromas along with a variety of other flavours including prunes, candied orange zest and quince.  A straight armagnac that is highly strung yet nevertheless smooth and enveloping.  You can drink this armagnac as an aperitif with or without ice.

12 year old XO (43%) – After 10 years ageing in oak, Armagnac starts to take on the aromas of ageing.  The fruit that is still present is accompanied by the first aromas of soft spices such as liquorice and cinnamon.  Still quite lively, this eau-de-vie will become more complex after a few minutes breathing in the glass.

20 year old (43%) – This Armagnac is full of life and displays a lovely character.  Already the alcohol is tamed, the tannins more refined and the aromas take shape.  It is certainly the most wonderful age for the armagnac enthusiast who appreciates the force and the maturity.

30 year old (43%) – Maturity begins.  The fresh fruit is transformed into dried and candied fruit.  The spicy character asserts itself.  The first aromas of ‘rancio’ appear and the alcohol is perfectly mellow.  This Grand Assemblage is the perfect example of magnificent balance that one finds in eaux-de-vie of this age.

40 year old (43%) – At 40 years old, the Armagnac’s style is definitely apparent.  The quality of the oak used is very important and the right use of a quality barrel will bring complexity and finesse to the Armagnac.

50 year old (42%) – The age of reason.  According to the freshness and the balance of the Armagnacs of this age, it is sometimes time, at the end of 50 years to stop the barrel ageing.  However, the use of barrels that have been exhausted of their tannins over many years in contact with the eau-de-vie is still possible.  The aromas of chocolate, leather and roasted notes are characteristic of these very old eaux-de-vie.

60 year old (42%) – An Armagnac of 60 years old is eternal.  It is rare to find an eau-de-vie that continues to express such character after so many years.  This blend is the result of a long and delicate selection that has allowed Darroze to preserve only those Armagnacs that have travelled through time without a single wrinkle!

Armagnac Main Brands

  1. 1. Domaine San de Guilhem
    Winegrower from the Gers, sale of old Bas Armagnacs. Producer of wines from South-West France, Côtes and flocs de Gascogne. Offers an original gift for individuals and companies, Jouvence d’Armagnac.
  2. 2. Armagnacs Gascogna
    Producer, wine merchant, we sell more than 110 AOC Bas Armagnac vintage, Gers wines, condiments, Armagnacs jams and Armagnac / Floc / wines Gers products.
  3. 3. Château du Busca-Maniban
    In the heart of Armagnac, the castle of Busca-Maniban is one of the most beautiful examples of the architecture of 17th Century Gascogne. Marquis de Maniban Armagnacs have been made there since 1649. You can buy them on line.4. Château de Lacquy
    The oldest family-owned property in the Armagnac appellation, belonging to the Boissésson family since 1711. Production of Bas-Armagnac from Baco, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche.
  4. 5. Château de Cassaigne
    Production of Armagnac, as well as aperitifs and liqueurs and Côtes de Gascogne, Madiran and Côtes de Saint-Mont wines.6. Baronne Jacques de Saint Pastou
    Located at the heart of the Bas Armagnac Noir region, Domaine de Rébert only produces a few thousand bottles of Armaganc each year.

    7. Branda
    Château Branda and Château Cadillac (Fronsac), Château Haut-Selve and Château Le Bonnat (Graves), Château Peyros (Madiran) and Château de Laubade (Bas-Armagnac).

    8. Château de Neguebouc
    Zacharie Baqué, the consummate historian of Gascony, held that, of all the eaux de vie made in Armagnac, those from Haut Armagnac had “the finest bouquet”. Producer of Armagnac, Côtes de Gascogne wines, aperitifs.

    9. Domaine de Joÿ
    Olivier and Roland Gessler, winemakers at Panjas, in the Gers, are overJoÿed to present their collection of Côtes de Gascogne white wines, as well as their Armagnac and their Flocs de Gascogne.

    10. Vignobles Fontan
    The Maubet and Grachies estates are in the Gers, in the heart of this region famous for its Armagnac and for its Côtes de Gascogne wines.

    11. Darroze
    Producer of Bas-Armagnac: the soil, the art, the products and the importers.

    12. Armagnac Delord
    From the grape to the bottle, join us as we elaborate our Armagnacs.

    13. Armagnac Castarède
    The House of Castarède, founded in 1832, is the oldest of all Armagnac trading houses.

    14. Château de Briat
    Production of great Bas Armagnac. The #1 reference for quality Armagnac.

    15. Maison Gélas
    Founded in 1865, specialized in the production of vintage armagnac, of which it offers a rich and refined selection, Maison Gélas has long been recognized as the leader in its field.

  1.  16. Armagnac Larressingle
    Château Larressingle, founded in 1837 in Gascogne, offers grand cru Armagnacs made from Folle Blanche, Blanquette, Picquepoult, Ugni Blanc, Colombard.
  2. 17. Armagnac de Montal
    Olivier de Montal, through the Compagnie des Produits de Gascogne, offers a prestigious selection of Armagnac, produced at Château de Rieutort.
  3. 18. Domaine de Mirail
    Independent producer of Côtes de Gascogne wines and Armagnac, located in Lectoure.
  4. 19. Armagnac Baron de Lustrac
    Vintanged Baron de Lustrac Armagnac, selected and aged passionnately, are largely produced by small estates. Rare and authentic brandies.
  5. 20. Domaine d’Ognoas
    Description of the Domain, details on Armagnac vintages. Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne sold online.21. Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac
    Armagnac is the oldest wine eau-de-vie produced in the South West of France, in the heart of Gascogny.

    22. Armagnacs Louis Marcellin
    Producer located in Gazaupouy and offering an Armagnac and a charming Floc de Gascogne.

    23. Armagnacs Jean Cavé
    The estate was founded by Jean Cavé in 1883, in Lannepax.

    24. Baron de Sigognac
    Baron de Sigognac Armagnac was born of the spirit and passion that for centuries has fueled the soul of Gascony, emblematically represented by D’Artagnan, the valiant Musketeer.

    25. Sempé
    Since 1934, Sempé has kept alive a long tradition of know-how and quality servicing Armagnac, the oldest French spirit.

    26. Tariquet
    Armagnac, Flocs de Gascogne and white and red Côtes de Gascogne wines are carefully produced at the Château du Tariquet.

    27. Château La Hitaire
    On the banks of a magnificent lake, surrounding a superb 18th Century château, the vines of La Hitaire spread on the hills of Eauze, the Armagnac capital. The estate also produces Côtes de Gascogne wines.

    28. Janneau
    The V.S.O.P., also known as the “7 Years Old”, is a blend of various Armagnacs aged in oak barrels in the Janneau House maturation warehouses for at least 7 years.

    29. Château Laballe
    The vineyard is located in the Bas Armagnac in the Landes region, area where are produced the finest and most aromatic brandies.

    30. Les 3 Domaines
    We are vinegrowers and producers located in Rejaumont, in the Gers, in Haut-Armagnac. The wines are made and bottled on the estates. Three estates, three families of generations of vinegrowers.

  1. 31. Domaine du Grand Comté
    Roquelaure wine. Armagnac, le Floc de Gascogne producer.
  2. 32. Domaine d’Espérance
    The vineyard is comprised of 7ha of Baco and Folle Blanche for Bas-Armagnac, 23ha for white wines (Colombard, Ugni-Blanc, Gros-Manseng, Sauvignon blanc and gris) and 7ha for red wines (Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc).
  3. 33. Armadis
    Armadis and the Bas Armagnac producers present their facilities, vineyards, distillation methods and products: Armagnac, liqueurs, fruits, and their labels: La Belle Sandrine, Chabot, Marquis de Puységur, Gerland, Duc d’Ejas.
  4. 34. GAEC d’Ordac
    Producer of Ténarèze armagnac, in Saint-Puy, in the Gers region of south-western France.
Published on November 14, 2011 at 12:03  Leave a Comment  

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