Armagnac is a grape brandy from the Gascony region of southwestern France. Its closest relative is Cognac, another grape brandy from an appellation located about 100 miles north of Armagnac.
Even though it is related to and often confused with Cognac, Armagnac is very different with regards to its grapes, terroir, distillation, élevage, blending, aromas, tastes and textures. In truth, France's two finest brandies made from wine are not very much alike at all.
Armagnac pre-dates Cognac by about 150 years but never achieved the widespread sales figures that its relatives in the Charente obtained. In contrast to commercial sales, however, the independent producer of Armagnac has always commanded a more important restaurant presence and level of connoisseur appreciation.
Let's look at the steps that are necessary to create France's most natural and complex brandy.
Armagnac is made from distilled wine, and grapes are the first factor that gives it an original personality. Even though there are nine permitted varietals in Armagnac, four grapes are commonly used:
- Folle Blanche
- Ugni Blanc
While these grapes ultimately give different aromas and flavors, they more importantly offer different weights and textures on the palate.