Liquor & Spirits
Armagnac, like cognac, was given an appellation controlee, by the FrenchGovt. In 1909. This ensures that the name armagnac can be given only tobrandy made in a delimited area in the heart of southwestern France, partof what was once the ancient province of Gascony.
Armagnac has been made for over 500 yrs, predating cognac by almost twocenturies The art of distillation came from Gascony via the Moors from acrossthe border in Spain Despite its earlier start, armagnac has never achievedcognac's fame. It was produced in small quantities by individual producersin a secluded inland part of the country, which made its distribution difficult.On the other hand, the cognacais, with easy access to the sea, were ableto introduce their product all over Europe. Even now, armagnac's productionis modest - less than 10% of cognac's total
For centuries, armagnac remained a well-kept secret, known only locallyand to the handful of connoisseurs outside the country. As recently as 15yrs ago, less than a half-dozen brands were consistently on the export market.
Armagnac experienced new-found admiration and took a great leap forwardin the early 1970's with the advent of Nouvelle Cuisine chef-stars suchas Michel Guevard (himself a Gascon) and others. Ever on the lookout fortouches that would distinguish their restaurants, they discovered that fine,old vintage armagnacs - the unblended product of a single year - were tobe found throughout the region. From this springboard, aided by the promotionalefforts of its producers armagnac is now achieving a new recognition andpopularity.
Only white grapes may be used for armagnac, the principal varietals beingUgni Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche. These grapes are grown in threesub-regions of the delimited armagnac are: Bas Amagnac,Tenareze, and HauteArmagnac, but only the first two matter, with Bas Armagnac being the bestand largest.
Distillation, unlike cognac, takes place in a continuous still. The winegoes through a single distillation and trickle out about 110 proof, thusretaining a high proportion of aromatic favoring elements.
At one time, All barrels for aging armagnac were made from oak grown inthe local forests of Monlezun, which added its own special taste to thespirit (Monlezun oak produces a cruder, darker flavor than Limousin oak).But supplies of Monlezun oak are dwindling and are now being supplementedwith barrels made made of Limousin and Troncais oak, the same as used forcognac.
The most important influence with regard to armagnac is the blending andaging. Their IS vintage dated armagnac, however, most armagnacs are blendsof different years and usually of two of the sub-regions. If the name ofa sub-region appears on the label, all of the contents of the bottle camefrom that area.
Labeling for armagnac is different than for cognac; "Three Stars"indicates aging at least one year in wood; "VO", "VSOP","Reserve" indicate aging at least four yrs in wood. Most armagnacsshipped out of the country are VSOP.
MapSempe VSOP - aged 6 yrs, good concentration of fruit in the nose with awonderful aroma of bananas. Slightly sweet, fruity, a hint of oak with awarm, spirity effect on the palate Very nice