Armagnac

 

Armagnac & chocolate : This is a marriage made in heaven when the synergy of flavours works to the good, and each is erased to emphasise the other. A moment of pure happiness.

Armagnac & cigars : They have many points in common: those are products of artisan production, whose qualities depend on the local soil, geology, climate and craftsmen. Their diversity is impressive (chosen according to the time of day, meal, company and circumstances), the tasting important (revealing the aromas and flavours), notwithstanding the pleasure that they give...

Armagnac & coffee : This combination places the accent on the aromas created by Armagnac 's maturation process (woody, grilled, smoked, torrefaction, coffee, cocoa, etc.) which match the aromas of coffee well. The bitterness of the coffee "erases" the acidity of the eau-de-vie and reinforces its sense of fullness. An old Armagnac with fine aromas will prolong the delicious and fine flavours of a Kenyan coffee. A young and vigorous Armagnac merges well with the power of an Ethiopian coffee.

Natural vinification

The grapes harvested in October are pressed, and the juice is fermented completely naturally with no oenological additives. The wine is generally acidic and low in alcohol; it therefore has the ability to preserve its freshness and aromas until distillation.

Distillation takes place during the winter, at the latest by the 31st March of the year following the crop; for the last 3 years, this date has been set by national decree (15th February for the 2000/2001 distillation).

The wine is often distilled on the estate, sometimes using a mobile distiller which moves from winery to winery to distil the vine growers' wine. It is also produced in distillation workshops by professional distillers and cooperative cellars.

The essential part of Armagnac (approximately 95%) is obtained with a still which is very specific to this eau-de-vie: the continuous Armagnac still. . This is a pure copper apparatus, which was patented in 1818 and has since been adapted, modified, and improved by regional distillers. It genuinely forms part of the character of Armagnac . Double distillation is also used by some Armagnac houses who have remained very attached to it.

Immediately after distillation, Armagnac is put to age in "casks": these are 400-litre oak barrels, mainly from the forests of Gascogny and Limousin . These casks are stored in wineries where the temperature and humidity are important to the quality of the ageing process.

From then on, the cellar master supervises the development of his eaux-de-vie:

  • the extraction of the cask's tannic compounds and aromas

  • the evaporation of part of the eau-de-vie and a reduction in the degree of alcohol (approximately a 1/2 degree per year), what is known as "the angel's share"

  • the growth of aromas from the wood and wine through the slow oxidation of the Armagnac , in contact with the air through the barrel.

The eaux-de-vie remains in new casks until the wood materials are optimally dissolved. They are then transferred to older barrels to prevent excessive wood flavours from being infused in the Armagnac , and to continue its slow development: the woody substances are refined, the vanilla and prune aromas grow, the "maderization" character begins to appear, and the alcoholic content drops progressively through the evaporation of alcohol (which is "the angel's share"). The eau-de-vie takes a beautiful amber colour; later changing to mahogany.

Blends

When the Cellar Master considers the ageing sufficient, he begins "mixing": harmoniously blending various eaux-de-vie of different origins and ages. The alcohol content (minimum 40% by volume) can be obtained by progressively adding "petites eaux" made up of a mixture of distilled water and Armagnac .

Vintages

Vintages, specific to Armagnac , correspond exclusively to the year of the crop. Reduction is not practised here, because the ageing winery is humid, and the eaux-de-vie are sold at their natural degree of ageing, which generally falls between 40% and 48% by volume.. The Armagnac ceases to age once bottled. The bottle must be stored upright so that the alcohol does not reach the cork.

Tasting Armagnac is firstly an exercise in the history of pleasure and curiosity.

Take a ball shaped glass, which gets nice and warm when you spend long minutes tasting with the glass cupped in your hand; or a tulip shaped glass which concentrates the flavours and allows you to taste more quickly and precisely. Pour some Armagnac into the glass, just 2 or 3 cl is enough, then gentle shake the Armagnac with a circular motion to wet the walls of the glass.

Armagnac should first be tasted with your eyes

The eau-de-vie is shiny, the colour golden, amber or mahogany, which is the logical colour development brought about by ageing.

It will sharpen the curiosity the nose

Before tasting in the mouth, smell the Armagnac gently, with your nose out of the glass and without agitating it so that the aromatic power does not overwhelm you. The first impression is forceful as the alcohol rises; but don't stop there, the Armagnac 's treasure lies elsewhere, a few seconds later. The aromas can be categorised in different aromatic families depending on the age and quality of the Armagnac :

  • fruity aromas: here you'll find nuances of quince, grape and plum, and then with age, prune, orange or apricot conserve

  • floral aromas: vine blossom, honey or lime...

  • woody aromas: vanilla, spicy, grilled ... maderization: this is the measure of the Armagnac 's maturity, it reveals most notably dry

  • fruit aromas: walnuts and hazelnut.
The intricacy of the aroma, combining several types of flavour, is itself a gauge of the quality of the Armagnac .

In the mouth, power and unctuousness confront each other

Take a sip, paying attention to the succession of flavours in the mouth. The attack is very subtle, the development warm, before the Armagnac assumes its full place. We speak about its volume, unctuousness, richness, and all terms to describe its structure. The aromatic wealth begins to overcome the sensation of power. Now, you find the same aromatic variety as on the nose with prevalent woody and maderization tones.

When the glass is empty

... don't abandon it, warm it between your hands and smell it: that's what we call the "bottom of the glass"; prune, spices, maderization or woody tones, the quintessence of the Armagnac is in there.