Armagnac, the region of France, has given its name to its distinctive kind of brandy, made of the same grapes as Cognac but without double distillation.
Armagnac is produced in Gascony, France, located in the south-west of the Cognac region. Like the Cognac area, there are 3 important areas for Armagnac: Bas Armagnac, Haut Armagnac, and Tenareze. The region the Armagnac is made is usually shown on the bottle and if not, is probably a blend from more than two regions.
The aristocracy in the region of Armagnac were the politically powerful Albret family from the 14th through to the 16th century and were against the monarchy of France, introducing Protestantism to south-west France, and during their rule the local spirit or 'eaux-de-vie' was commercialised and sold in France as Armagnac.
Whilst very similar to Cognac, Armagnac differs due to the difference in distillation. Armagnac is distilled only once in a continuous copper still whilst Cognac is double-distilled, but Armagnac is typically aged for longer than Cognac, most often over 10 years, the better examples are those aged from fifteen to twenty years old.
Producers concentrate on four grape varieties: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and the hybrid Baco. These grapes give a wine low in alcohol and high in acidity, which acts as a natural preservative, because sulphur cannot be added to a wine due to be distilled.
Aged in oak, usually in 400 litre barrels, for between four and twenty years at a temperature of 12 degrees C, and from where it absorbs the colour and flavours from the wood-ageing process, produced from up to eleven different grape types in the areas of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne, with half of Armagnac production destined for export.
Since 1972, a small percentage of Armagnac produced; by Janneau for example, is produced by double distillation that results in a smoother, lighter, rounder eau-de-vie that ages more quickly.
A Contemporary Armagnac.
Having the choice of several grape varieties and two methods of distillation, Armagnac's potential complexity is enormous yet some producers have chosen to make varietal Armagnac.
This new product, a modern version of Armagnac, may attract younger consumers. It is the result of the distillation of white wine coming exclusively from the "Folle Blanche" vine. As it is not stored in casks it is colourless and captures the delicate floral character of the grape.
This versatile drink can be enjoyed, well chilled, as an aperitif or drunk in the middle of a meal, according to the "Trou Gascon" tradition. The special qualities appreciated by a wider consumer group should help Armagnac to position itself among the world's finest spirits.