Armagnac is the oldest eau-de-vie (literally “water of life”) of France. Famous in the Middle Ages for its therapeutic virtues, it became a widely used spirit during the fifteenth century and reached its apogee in the nineteenth century. The area of production is part of the vineyards located south of the Bordeaux region, and comprises the departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. Besides Armagnac AOC, there are four other more specific AOCs of the area: Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Ténarèze (or Ténarèze), Haut-Armagnac and La Blanche-Armagnac (or White-Armagnac).
The use of 10 grape varieties (all white) is allowed by the appellation; the predominant four grapes are the Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Baco Blanc. The Bas-Armagnac is the largest of the three areas with 60% of all the plantings. Its quartz soil covered with fine sand and mixed with ferruginous elements is the reason for more delicate and fruity brandy versus the chalk and clay soil of the Ténarèze, which gives a more full-bodied brandy.
Armagnac is distilled only once at a lower temperature (110ºC) than Cognac, which is double-distilled at a higher temperature; this and the sandy soil determine the more fragrant and grape-y style of the Armagnac as opposed to the more neutral Cognac, especially at younger age.
Currently available at select ABC Fine Wine & Spirits stores are Château du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac VS and VSOP. Château du Tariquet (since 1912) is a family (Artaud and Grassa) owned winery/distillery, using sustainable practices of viticulture and is considered one of the leading producers of fine wine and Armagnac in Gascony.
Atanas Nechkov, Wine & Spirits Supervisor
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