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Armagnac

What is Armagnac?

Armagnac is a high quality wine brandy which has the particularity of ageing well and being marked by the specificities of its year of production. In order to finish your meals in a climax or to offer you moments on your own or with others, the alfavin.ch online shop also offers you a selection of these fine drinks from a wide ...

What is Armagnac?

Armagnac is a high quality wine brandy which has the particularity of ageing well and being marked by the specificities of its year of production. In order to finish your meals in a climax or to offer you moments on your own or with others, the alfavin.ch online shop also offers you a selection of these fine drinks from a wide range of vintages. Whether it is to commemorate the year of birth of a child or a loved one or to celebrate a jubilee, offering an Armagnac is an ideal prestigious gift to immortalize time.

Generalities about Armagnac

Armagnac is an alcohol produced by the distillation of dry white wine produced expressly for this purpose. Of the 11'000 ha of the region's vineyards, 2'000 ha are devoted to the production of Armagnac. It owes its name to the former name of the province in which it is produced. Situated mainly in Gers, but also in Landes and Lot-et-Garone, in what could be called the vineyard of the South-West, it is today divided into three sub-regions: bas-armagnac, armagnac-ténarèze and haut-armagnac. We distinguish the bas- from the haut- depending on whether we are located further downstream (in the east) than upstream (in the west). The tenarèze region represents the central region. However, each of these sub-regions has distinct specifications which offer subtle differentiations in the finished product.

History of Armagnac

Historically the province of Armagnac would take its name from a former Frankish soldier, Herreman, who was raised to the rank of Lord by Clovis. His name was transformed into Latin by Arminius, which with time and local dialect eventually became Armagnac.

Although it is difficult to date exactly the beginning of wine-growing and the appearance of distillation methods in the region, it is nevertheless attested that a sale of brandy took place in 1461. What is more certain is that the technique for making Armagnac was imposed by regional and contextual conditions of markets and transport.

Indeed, in the 17th century the wine market was dominated by the virtual supremacy of Bordeaux, its rich owners and merchants. Thanks to their access to the sea, they enjoyed definite advantages over exports. Wines produced further upstream on the Garonne River travelled poorly and were expensive to transport, making them uncompetitive. By producing a brandy from these wines, the merchants reduced the volume to be transported, thus reducing costs, while increasing its capacity for conservation without loss of quality. One must also imagine that at the time Armagnac would
very well be consumed, cut with water and flavoured.

The making of Armagnac

Armagnac is produced by distillation of wine. The four main grape varieties used in its composition are ugni blanc, baco blanc, colombard and folle blanche. More occasionally, Plant de Graisse, Jurançon Blanc, Mauzac, Mauzac Rosé and Meslier Saint-François are also authorised. The harvest already takes place in September, although particularly high yields of 120 to 160 hl per hectare are allowed.

The grapes vinified in white are low in alcohol (about 10% vol.) and have a high acidity.

The wines are then distilled according to a special technique. Distillation, which is based on the principle that the boiling point of alcohol (78°C) is lower than that of water, makes it possible, by heating the wine, to extract its alcohol and its aromas! The specificity of the Armagnac still includes the presence of trays. The wine is introduced from the bottom of the vat and is gradually heated until it overflows from the main vase. The wine then falls back into successive trays, continuing to heat up, all the way to the bottom of the vat. The alcohol evaporating progressively captures the aromas of the different levels of wine it passes through during its ascent! This process thus produces a colourless brandy at around 60% vol.

Ageing in barrels is essential and obligatory to bear the name Armagnac. This process, in addition to giving it its amber colour and contributing to the complexification of its aromatic palette, allows the reduction of the alcohol content to around 40% vol. The alcohol will in fact evaporate gradually through the wood. This stage can thus take several years.

After this stage, the Armagnac stops ageing and must be stored in neutral containers. From an aromatic point of view, from this stage onwards, only a slight oxidation will modify its taste over the years.

How to drink Armagnac?

Armagnac is best enjoyed in balloon or tulip-shaped glasses that concentrate the aromas. A young Armagnac can be enjoyed as a cocktail, or it can also be used in cooking to spice up a sauce, to flare up poultry or in dessert recipes.
To accompany a meal, old vintages are preferred. But we should not forget that Armagnac and its digestive virtues will also be appreciated at the end of a meal.

What is the difference between Cognac and Armagnac?

The big difference between Cognac and Armagnac lies in the distillation process. The Charentais still for Cognac works on the principle of double distillation and allows to obtain an alcohol level of about 70-71 degrees. The continuous Armagnac still produces an alcohol level of about 60 degrees. The other main differences lie in the terroir and the grape varieties.

The Cognac is made from almost 100% Ugni Blanc on a predominantly limestone soil.

The Armagnac, as mentioned above, comes from three distinct areas with rather clay-limestone soils. It is produced with the grape varieties ugni blanc, baco blanc, colombard and folle blanche.

Products

Armagnacs are classified according to the length of their ageing period, namely: 1 year for the VS (***), 4 years for the VSOP, 6 years for the XO (Napoleon), 10 years for the hors d'âge and 20 years for the XO premium.

Armagnac is generally produced from blends of several grape varieties and several vintages. If this is not the case, the mention of the grape variety or vintage will be present on the label.

Alfavin.ch thus offers you high quality vintage products from the estate of Castarède Bas-Armagnac, a family business founded in 1832 and which has since established itself as world class!

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