Jason Wilson: Exploring the World of Armagnac

Armagnac is perhaps the most wine-like of spirits, and so it is a fitting beverage to start with for those who aren't quite sure it is worth it to venture out of the world of wine. This excerpt from Jason Wilson , originally published on Vinous sets the scene and gives you the basics so you can confidently try sipping something new. Cheers! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "If you’re the sort of person who enjoys bourbon or rye or even Scotch, there’s never been a better moment to give Armagnac a try. Producers are using older and older brandies in their blends, creating great spirits that offer notable complexity and value. New regulations, released in April by the BNIA (Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l'Armagnac) have streamlined the age categories, making the spirit slightly easier to understand. Still, Armagnac remains a bit of a mystery in the English-speaking world, for various reasons. First, you cannot tiptoe around a basic fact: Ours is not a brandy-drinking culture. When people talk about brandy, a famous line from Samuel Johnson is often quoted: “Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” By Dr. Johnson’s definition, America is fairly lacking in heroism. Sadly, those who dismiss brandy miss out on unimaginably delicious nectars full of history and craftsmanship. Armagnac: Cognac’s Country Cousin Armagnac exists in a different world. Gascony is a humbler land of foie gras and confit, where ducks and geese outnumber people. The place is notoriously quirky, provincial and ornery, without big train stations or super-highways to make travel easy. A little over six million bottles of Armagnac are produced worldwide each year, with less than a half million reaching our shores. France is still Armagnac’s top market, followed by the UK, U.S., Russia, and China. Armagnac’s total production is a drop in the bucket compared with Cognac, which annually sells 160 million bottles worldwide. Perhaps this is why Armagnac is often referred to as Cognac’s “hick cousin.” Some might also say that Armagnac is to Cognac as the wines of Southwest France are to Bordeaux. This isn’t entirely accurate, and Gascons bristle at notions like this, but Armagnac does bring a more rustic, robust, burly character to the glass. While it can have amazing finesse and elegance, it is an affable, gregarious spirit. What Armagnac also possesses is authenticity, history and tradition. It dates back more than 700 years – predating Cognac by a couple hundred years – making it one of the world’s oldest distilled spirits. The reason I say that Armagnac is the most wine-like of spirits, is that – unlike most spirits – factors like terroir and grape variety significantly impact what’s in the bottle. Armagnac consists of more than 500 grower-producers, and 300 growers that sell to one of six cooperatives or 40 négociant houses. The AOC is split into three sub-regions: Bas-Armagnac, Ténarèze, and Haut-Armagnac. There is also a separate AOC for Blanche Armagnac, an unaged eau de vie, which was created in 2005 as an effort to reach a cocktail/mixology audience. For our purposes here, we’ll be dealing with the aged Armagnac as a neat spirit." For more, read the complete article on Vinous . ---------- One of the world's preeminent experts on spirits, Jason Wilson is the author of two books, the recently published Godforsaken Grapes : A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine and Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits. His articles have appeared in a diverse range of publications.

Chateau de Leberon

Brut de Fût Armagnac 1987

Everywhere I turn Armagnac seems to be a hot topic. This might say more about those with whom I mix than anything else. Nevertheless it does seem that Armagnac is becoming a thing.

I was inspired to taste this particular bottle following Jason Wilson's glowing review in the extraordinary and comprehensive coverage of the Armagnac in Vinous those week. It did not disappoint.

Endlessly complex, intense, cerebral almost. This is the most nuanced spirit I've tasted. A gem. No wonder this category of brandy is becoming hot stuff. I don't even the most celebrated of whisky (or whiskey) is capable of such heights.
— 5 months ago

Neil, Paul and 29 others liked this
P A

P A Premium Badge

@James Forsyth Cheers 🍷

Domaine du Berdet

17 Years Darrimajou Thierry Bourdalat Bas Armagnac 1999

Fantastic as a digestif. Pairs very nicely with dried fruit, chocolate and cream. — 8 months ago

Delord

Bas-Armagnac

My rating is for the 25 year bottling. An interesting copper color. Powerful nose of oak, caramel, and custard. On the palate caramel, vanilla, oak, spice and custard with a hint of lemon and bread dough. The finish is long acid, more caramel and oak. Fabulous and dangerously smooth. — 6 months ago

Château de Lacquy

Bas Armagnac VSOP

Rich and spicy. Delicious. 7 years in French oak. — 5 months ago

David liked this

Chateau de Leberon

Vin Muté de Gascogne Armagnac Colombard

Oxidized sweet brandy notes of burnt Carmel and apricots. Cooked honey coats tie bottom palate. Pairs beautifully with Cookie’s blueberry pie!!! — 6 months ago

Frank
with Frank
Ron, Shawn and 5 others liked this

J Dupeyron

Millésimé Armagnac 1943

Birth year bottle. What can I say? It was Armagnac. — 5 months ago

Hugh, Steve and 3 others liked this
Hugh O'Riordan

Hugh O'Riordan

Very cool

Sempe

Armagnac 1936

Burnt orange, hazelnut & caramel were some of the notes. — 5 months ago

Jeff, Matt Trader, and 2 others liked this

Delord

Vieil Armagnac 1958

I can only say wow and thank you! — 8 months ago

Chateau de Pellehaut

Tenareze Armagnac Ugni Blanc 1994

Oxidized, sherry like, salted nuts. 22 years in the barrel will do that! — 9 months ago

James liked this