Created 700 years ago,Armagnac is the oldest eau-de-vie in France. Its history is closely linked to that of Gascony, its original land, whose territory it has shaped, and to its Gascon people, thanks to whom this age-old tradition has endured for centuries. Armagnac is still made today according to traditional methods and know-how in order to preserve all its authenticity. To discover Armagnac is to discover a know-how, a heritage handed down from generation to generation, but also a region, a way of life, a tradition engraved in the History of France. Over the centuries, Armagnac has evolved considerably, both through beneficial events and through disasters that have seriously threatened its survival, thanks to the passion of the producers, fewer and fewer in number, but still just as passionate about this extraordinary eau-de-vie.
Armagnac and the imprint of time
Every year for centuries, the same enthusiasm has driven the "bouilleurs de cru" (distillers) when the famous "aygue ardente", a wine brandy destined for a long ageing period during which it will take on all its charm, flows from the spout of the still. However, before becoming Armagnac as we know it today, the brandy was intended for medicinal use. From Joan of Arc's miraculous potion with 40 virtues to today's amber brandy, the history of Armagnac has been written over time, thanks to technological progress, but also (and above all) thanks to a certain fortuity.
Armagnac and the imprint of the terroir
In reality, there is not just one Armagnac, but many different terroirs, giving the crus an infinite richness, but also a unique typicity. Indeed, the territory of Gascony is marked by various geological and climatological factors allowing the vine to express itself according to different aromatic registers. In addition to this, the producers' know-how, wishing to mark their Armagnacs with their own specific touch through the grape varieties, the blends, the distillation, without forgetting the crucial stage of ageing: Armagnac Noir, Armagnac Blanc or Ténarèze, each terroir gives life to an authentic cru, but perfectly distinct from its neighbours. The aromatic palette is spread out in an infinite number of aromas exploring various universes, able to satisfy all palates.
Discovery of the Armagnac region, a wine-growing area
Armagnac brandy was born in the South West of France, mainly in the Gers region, where the vines are spread out over the rounded hillsides that have graced the landscape since Roman times. Bathed in sunshine, tempered by ocean winds, protected by the pine forests of the Landes, and crossed by numerous rivers, Gascony is a land that is conducive to the development of the vine. The terroirs play a major role in the character of the future Armagnac wine spirits: black Armagnac, white Armagnac or Ténarèze, each cru has a profile typical of its terroir, with its own aromatic register. Over the centuries, the Armagnac region has been entirely devoted to its brandy, having left its mark on the land: from the vines to the centuries-old oak forests, not forgetting the many estates and distilleries that dot the landscape.
Armagnac, 700 years of history
Armagnac is a tradition that has been passed down through history for more than 700 years, making it the oldest eau-de-vie in France. Its history has always been linked to that of Gascony, the wine-growing and forestry region of south-west France. The fruit of three civilisations, this tradition has evolved considerably over time, from a medicinal water reserved for monasteries to a brandy exported in large volumes throughout northern Europe. Over the centuries, historical events and scientific and technological progress have marked a major turning point in the history of Armagnac.
What is Armagnac or Armagnac brandy?
Armagnac is one of the most famous traditional brandies in the world. It is the result of a complex process, a centuries-old know-how whose origin and different stages of production are often unknown. Despite progress and modernisation, Armagnac is still made using the most traditional method possible, passed down from generation to generation by a privileged few. Discovering what Armagnac is, the authorised grape varieties, the typicality of its terroirs, the secrets of its production, also means discovering an extraordinary region of France, Gascony, learning about distillation and the benefits of ageing in barrels.
The Armagnac terroirs: 3 different appellations for 3 terroirs
The notion of "crus" appeared in the middle of the 18th century and marked a major turning point in the history of Armagnac. Today, these terroirs are geographically delimited and recognised under 3 distinct AOCs: Bas-Armagnac, Haut-Armagnac and Armagnac-Ténarèze. Each of these 3 Armagnac terroirs gives rise to a typical eau-de-vie according to its geological and climatological specificities. The creation of these appellations has above all enabled producers to affirm the identity and originality of each eau-de-vie according to its terroir, reflected in the typical character of each AOC.
Bas Armagnac, Boulbène country
Bas-Armagnac is the most prized terroir for brandy lovers because of the unique and recognisable character of its brandy. It is the largest and most western AOC, often referred to as "black Armagnac" because of the dense forests that decorate its landscape. Thanks to the "boulbènes" that make up its soils, Bas-Armagnac produces a brandy whose smoothness and aromatic richness have been legendary since the royal court of Louis XV. These coveted eaux-de-vie are destined to mature for a long time, allowing them to reveal their resolutely feminine character, with heady perfumes and a velvety texture.
Armagnac Tenareze, the land of Peyrusquet
The Ténarèze is a terroir defined by the many steep hillsides that make up its landscape, from which it takes its name "chemin de crête". Armagnac Ténarèze corresponds to the eastern part of the Armagnac appellation. Its clay-limestone soils, nicknamed "peyrusquets", have the particularity of giving life to particularly virile brandies of character. Several decades in wood will be essential to calm their characteristic ardour.
Haut Armagnac also called White Armagnac
With only 500 hectares of vineyards, the Haut-Armagnac terroir is rather discreet on the media scene. However, the eaux de vie of Haut-Armagnac have a certain typical rusticity. Both confidential and original, Haut-Armagnac is particularly sought after by insiders. It is often called white Armagnac in reference to its very chalky soil.
The 10 grape varieties of Armagnac, a guarantee of character and tradition
In order to preserve the identity and character of Armagnac, the Fallières decree of 1909 selected a set of 10 grape varieties authorised for the production of Armagnac eaux-de-vie. Although Ugni Blanc and Baco alone account for 95% of the vineyard, certain traditional grape varieties play a fundamental role in the character of future eaux de vie.
The 5 stages of Armagnac production
For centuries, Armagnac has always been made according to a unique and ancestral know-how handed down from generation to generation. The Appellations ensure that the Armagnacs are still made according to the most traditional method possible, as they have been for centuries. From the vine to the brandy, discover the 5 stages of Armagnac production.
The composition of Armagnac: the distillation of white wine
Distillation is a process for separating miscible liquid substances based on the volatility of the substances. This alchemy operates thanks to the alembic, a fascinating Middle Eastern invention used in perfumery, medicine and petrochemistry. The distillation of white wine produces the famous "coulée d'argent", a pure and crystalline eau-de-vie destined to age in wood.
The distillation of Armagnac, an age-old art
Distillation is a key stage in the production of Armagnac eau-de-vie and is the responsibility of the "bouilleur de cru". More than a profession, it is an honorary title reserved for a privileged few whose know-how has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. As with the entire manufacturing process, the distillation of Armagnac must be carried out according to the traditional method in order to preserve the authenticity of this exceptional eau-de-vie.
The making of Armagnac: a preserved tradition
Armagnac enjoys an exemplary reputation throughout the world, yet its origins are often misunderstood. The making of Armagnac is a traditional and particularly complex process, during which the brandy will reveal its exceptional character. By discovering how Armagnac is made, you will understand that respect for tradition at each stage of production plays a fundamental role in preserving the authenticity of the eau-de-vie.
From the vineyard to the still: the first stages of production
The first steps in the production of Armagnac are often overlooked, yet they are crucial to the future of the eau-de-vie. From the vine to the still, discover what Armagnac is made of: the traditional grape varieties, the harvest and the vinification, in the greatest respect of the traditional method.
The distillation of Armagnac, a traditional and age-old know-how
Distillation is a decisive stage in the production of eau-de-vie. The secret of this alchemy is held by a few privileged people honoured with the title of "bouilleurs de cru" and this unique know-how has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. Nowadays, the art of distilling Armagnac is still carried out according to the traditional method.
The ageing of Armagnac: the benefits of putting the wine in wood
The ageing of Armagnac is a very long process during which the crystalline eau-de-vie will change considerably. It will take many years, even decades, to perfect the Armagnacs: amber colour, smoothness, aromas. It is from its cradle of wood that Armagnac brandy draws all its richness.
The Armagnac Appellation: recognition of the terroir
Although Armagnac evokes general characteristics, the terroirs also bring their influence. The geology of the soils, the microclimates, and numerous territorial specificities influence the profile of the different Armagnacs. The Appellations of Armagnac allow for the official recognition of these specific characteristics of each terroir.
Blanche d'Armagnac: the latest AOC Armagnac
Although Blanche d'Armagnac has always existed, the decree of 2005 marks the official birth of the AOC Blanche d'Armagnac. This young AOC is very different from its predecessors, both in its production and in its unique characteristics.
The aromas of Armagnac: an infinite palette of flavours
As long as it is in wood, the Armagnac continues its long process of evolution during which its aromas blend, combine and intensify. The aromatic richness of Armagnacs is unique and the palette of aromas explores various aromatic universes such as fruity, vegetal, pastry, up to the rancio and its perfumes announcing a perfectly completed maturation.
Armagnac bottles: a Gascon tradition
Traditional Armagnac bottles are like the brandy itself, round and generous. Although more common models tend to be democratised for reasons of convenience, the Basquaise and the Pot Gascon remain the essential bottles to showcase this exceptional eau-de-vie.