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The Armagnac of Gascony

Published

18th February 2015

Armagnac is a very aromatic brandy from Gascony. It was France’s first brandy and dates back more than 700 years. Despite its long history, Armagnac is often compared with Cognac. Superficially the two are really very similar: they are both wine-based spirits (eaux-de-vie de vin) from south-western France, produced in fundamentally in the same method and from similar grape selections. But there are slight, differences between them, which are the basis of great regional pride. You will have the opportunity to experience the Armagnac of the Gascony Region while attending one of our French Cookery Classes.

What’s the difference between
Armagnac and Cognac?

The two most discernible differences between Armagnac and Cognac are region of origin and flavour. Armagnac comes from Gascony while Cognac originates from Charente. Armagnac is more intensely flavoured, earthier, weightier and darker while cognac is slightly lighter, finer and fruitier.

Armagnac is distilled only once, in a constant still. Its single distillation creates a heavier spirit. Because the distillation process naturally separates the spirit from its heavier flavor compounds, the less refined a spirit is, the richer its flavour. Armagnac is made by distilling wine, so everything begins in the vineyards.

After the distillation process, the spirits will be aged in oak barrels; about 6 to 12 months in new barrels, and in used barrels afterwards. They are then blended together to create the desired flavor profile. And because alcohol evaporates progressively inside the barrels, the less dilution it requires. This is one of Armagnac’s great advantages; older examples require no dilution at all. From this perspective, mature Armagnac is extremely ‘pure’.

The barrel maturation process is vital to Armagnac’s character. It softens the spirit, deepens its complexity and introduces new flavours of vanilla and spice. All Armagnacs are assigned a quality level, based on how much time the spirit spent in barrel: VS (between 1 and 3 years), VSOP (between 4 and 9 years), Napoleon (between 6 and 9 years) and XO (10 years+). Some are marked with a specific age (that of the youngest spirit in the blend). Vintage-marked Armagnacs are produced exclusively from the stated vintage.

More than this, the vineyards in the Armagnac regions also produce red, white and rose wines and just to the south are the vineyards that produce Madiran.

The Gascony Cookery School students visit the Château de Cassaigne, Condom’s acclaimed Armagnac distillery. where you will learn about the history of this local brandy whilst indulging in a short – optional! – degustation.  See the full Itinery of the Foundation Cookery Week Course in the Cookery Courses section of website or just click “Which course is for me?”

We look forward to seeing you soon and sharing our Armagnac and much more with you.

 

David, Vikki & Bernard

David, Vikki & Bernard.

The Gascony Cookery School.

 

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