Armagnac :

Une histoire, un produit...

A story :

Armagnac, as one of the oldest brandies in France, is committed to perpetuating a traditional savoir-faire. Thanks to Maître Vital Dufour, Prior of Eauze ( 1260 – 1327) – erudite man of Faith and fervent enthusiast of medicine – we can retrace the first references to Armagnac back to 1310, when it was still called “Aygue Ardente”.
Armagnac has existed for more than 700 years!

Un product :

Armagnac is a French brandy made from distilled white wine and aged in oak barrels and bottled at a minimum of 40% abv., in a limited and strictly controlled area (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).
Armagnac is always distilled during the winter period – starting actually in November – up to the 31st of March of the year following the harvest. Most of the time, the wines are distilled in a continuous Armagnac alembic made from pure copper, giving character to the eaux-de-vie. Even today, some producers still use roving alembics and travelling distillers.
An Armagnac can be either a blend (several eaux-de-vie from different casks or demi-muids, from different estates or different harvests) or a Millésime (one single year of harvest).
Armagnac is an artisanal product made in very small quantities by winegrowers and producers from Gascony, perpetuating a traditional savoir-faire, which gives to this eau-de-vie a rich and diverse personality. There is not just one Armagnac. Armagnac has endless possibilities and variations.

Three terroirs

AOC, what does it mean ?

The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Armagnac dates back to 1936 and strictly defines the production conditions that guarantee uniqueness and authenticity. Armagnac is exclusively produced across three départements: Gers, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, and three terroirs: Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Tenarèze and Haut-Armagnac. This territory, peculiarly shaped like a vine leaf, is composed of 15 000 hectars of vineyards, of which 5 200 are exclusively reserved for the production of Armagnac. The climate is temperate and gentle, under the influence of the Pyrenees Mountains. Three terroirs that have a deep imprint on the character of this beloved eaux-de-vie:

Bas-Armagnac

Spreads on the western side of the Armagnac lands across the Landes and Gers départements; the vines grow on poor and acidic clay loam soils that also contain ferruginous elements («Les Sables fauves») in the Landes area and silty-clay (the «boulbènes») in the Gers area. This terroir is known for producing the richest, most floral, fruity and delicate eaux-de-vie.

Armagnac-Tenarèze

Spreads between the north-western part of the Gers and the South of the Lot-et-Garonne areas. The vines that grow on silty clay soil give powerful and full-bodied eaux-de-vie although the distillates usually require a long ageing – from 20 to 30 years – to reach their peak and full expression.

Haut-Armagnac

Spreads between the Eastern part of the Gers and a small part of the Lot-et-Garonne regions. The region is known as “white” Armagnac because of its limestone and clay-limestone soils. Vines are pretty rare because of the chalky hillside landscapes. These eaux-de-vie are vivid, but to be drunk young.

Three primary

Original Varieties

To make a good Armagnac, the quality of the wine is paramount and the winegrowers’ knowledge essential. The best Armagnacs are made from dry white wines with high acidity and low alcohol. Only 10 grape varietals are registered in the decree of the Armagnac A.O.C.. However, the three main varieties used for distillation of this eau-de-vie are:

Ugniblanc

Ugni Blanc

Originally from Tuscany (Italy) where it is called Trebbiano Toscano. Ugni-Blanc is well suited to the three Armagnac terroirs, giving an acidic and low alcohol wine that makes it the distillation grape par excellence. Highly resistant to frost and well adapted to clay and limestone soils, it produces fine and high-quality eaux-de-vie.

Folle blanche

Folle Blanche

Also called “Piquepoul”, this historical grape variety was the most dominant before its destruction by the Phylloxera in 1878. Today Folle Blanche is quite rare, as its cultivation on rootstock makes it more fragile and quite difficult to grow. This varietal gives an elegant Armagnac, particularly valued for its fine and floral notes.

Baco

Baco

Also called “Baco 22A”, is a hybrid created by Monsieur Baco following phylloxera. A cross of Folle Blanche and Noah grapes, it is particularly adapted to the sandy soils of the Bas-Armagnac that give the eaux-devie roundness, smoothness and aromas of ripe fruits, particularly after long ageing. This is a robust variety that needs less husbandry than other varieties.

Other varietals :

The other varieties such as Colombard, Clairette de Gascogne, Jurançon blanc, Plant de graisse, Meslier Saint François or Mauzac blanc and rosé, are more rare and only represent a few hectares of the vineyards dedicated to Armagnac. Photos collection BNIA ©

Armagnac & Cognac

What are the differences ?