Armagnac is a brandy made from grapes from a limited and strictly controlled area in the Gers, Landes and Lot-et- Garonne départements of south-west France. It is produced from white wine, distilled, aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years, and bottled at a minimum of 40 % abv.
Unusually for a wine or spirit of quality, armagnac comes from sandy soils in an area that was once a deep undersea valley between the Pyrenées and the Massif Central.
The region’s temperate climate has two maritime influences : that of the Atlantic, ameliorated by the Landes Forest, and that of the Mediterranean brought on the Autan wind. These help to moderate temperatures and subsequently the fully fermented wines for distillation only achieve 9–10 % alcohol.
On the 25th May 1909, the region was delimited and on the 6th August 1936, the 15,000ha Armagnac AOC was born with three crus.
Bas Armagnac Lying lower than the other sub-regions (hence its name) and to the west the region’s 1er cru is an area of forested, rolling hills, on whose slopes lie the vineyards. A very heavy topsoil, known as boulbène, rich in limestone, lies over a somewhat acidic combination of sand, clay and pebbles. In some places this is mixed with iron giving rise to the term sables fauves (literally tawny sand). To the northwest of the sub-region the soilbecomes predominantly clay giving supple brandies that are relatively quick to mature and evoke associations of prunes, plums and tobacco.
Tenareze. Very rich in boulbène over clay and chalk, combining here to give brandies with slightly more finesse and a more rounded, aromatic, fruity style, with undertones of violets and which are capable of great age.
Haut Armagnac Located to the east of the region on clay and chalk slopes, this region can produce quality brandies
VS/Three Star Minimum 2 years
VSOP Minimum 5 years
XO/Napoleon Minimum 6 years
Hors d’Age Minimum 10 years
Single vintage year/age statement – These are minimum ages following the year of harvest and represent the youngest armagnac in the blend. Growers have five years from the harvest to declare brandies they wish to sell as vintage or age statement, however these must be aged a minimum of ten years before bottling.