Hi - this guide provides a few facts about Armagnac and the differences between it and Cognac. Enjoy!
Armagnac, the region of France, has given its name to its distinctive kind of brandy or eau de vie, made of the
same grapes as Cognac and undergoing the same aging in oak barrels, but with
column still distillation. Armagnac production is overseen by a Bureau National
Interprofessionel de l'Armagnac (BNIA).
Armagnac is the only true rival to Cognac for recognition as the finest producer of brandy in the world. Along with Cognac and
Jerez in Spain, it is one of only three officially demarcated brandy regions in Europe.Its quantity of production is significantly lower than that of the Cognac region; for every six bottles of Armagnac sold around the world there are one hundred bottles of cognac sold. Armagnac has been making brandy for around 200
years longer than Cognac.
The Armagnac region lies between the Adour and Garonne rivers in the foothills of the Pyrenees. A part of this historical
region is permitted to grow the grapes that are used in the manufacture of
brandy that may be labelled with the Armagnac name. This area was officially
demarcated when Armagnac was granted AOC status in 1936. The official production area is divided into
three districts which lie in the departements of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne.
• Bas Armagnac - the most famous area of production
• Haut Armagnac
Each of these areas is controlled by separate appellation regulations. Although the term means lower in French,
the best armagnacs are principally produced in Bas Armagnac. The region contains 40,000 acres (160 km²) of
The production of Armagnac differs in several ways from that of Cognac and it is the oldest eau de vie dating back to the 12th
century. Armagnac is only distilled once and at a lower temperature than Cognac,
meaning that the former retains more of the fruit character, whereas Cognac's
second distillation results in a lower balance. Armagnacs are aged for nearly
the same period as Cognac, which has a significant impact on the grape once it
has been distilled. Armagnac is aged in limousine oak casks giving them a nice and
delicate colour, as well as an intricate flavour more complex than that of
Cognac. Armagnac ages in oak barrels which give it its
complex flavour and colour. Armagnac exists in several ages : the minimum for
bottles is 2 years. In the case of assemblies, the age on the bottle refers to
the youngest component. An armagnac is a mix of several armagnacs
with at least 2 years of ageing in wood. For the VSOP, the ageing is at least 5
years, and for XO, at least 6. Richer and more interesting flavours appear from
15 or 20 years of aging, or more. Elder and better armagnacs are dated
('vintages') ; these bottles contain armagnac from one single year.
Ageing in the barrel removes a part of the alcohol by evaporation (known as angel's share) and allows
more complex aromatic compounds to appear by oxidation, which further improves
the flavour. When the alcohol part reaches 40% or more, the armagnac is kept in
large glass bottles, called Dame Jeanne, for storage. From then on, the armagnac
does not age, and can be bottled for sale from the next year on. As with any eau de vie, armagnac is stored vertically
to avoid damaging the stopper with alcohol. Once opened, a bottle of armagnac
stays drinkable for years.
Aging Requirements for Armagnac are:
• VS [Very Special] - at least 2 years old
• VSOP [Very Superior Old Pale] or Réserve - at least 5 years old
• XO, Napoléon, Extra, Vieille Réserve - at 6 years old.
• Hors d'age - at least 10 years old
Ten different varieties of grape are authorised for use in the production of Armagnac. Of these, four form the principal part:
• Ugni Blanc
• Baco 22A
• Folle Blanche
The remaining varieties include Jurançon and Picquepoul.
The main producers of Armagnac are:
• Domaine d'Esperance
• Château Lacquy
• Domaine de Bordeneuve
• Armagnac Château de Ravignan
• De Montal
• Ryst Dupeyron
• Marquis de Caussade