This enormous land mass contains some of the
greatest wine growing areas in the world. Names like Margaux,
Saint-Estéphe, Pauillac and Sauternes spring to mind.
Geography is very important here. In France,
they have a different philosophy toward growing winegrapes than you
will find in California.
Where our vineyards might grow many different
varieties, the French tend to concentrate on whatever grapes grow
best in the soils and other natural factors that exist in the
This is what differentiates "varietal wines" from
"regional wines". A bottle of French wine
rarely ever mentions the type of grape on the label, but always
refers to where the wine was made.
It is up to the consumer to understand that a
"White Bordeaux" will be predominantly Sauvignon Blanc, or a "Red
Burgundy" is a Pinot Noir. And of course other grapes from that
region are very often blended into the wine. This is what gives
each its own identity.
So now we come to Armagnac.
We know it is the name of a county, but Armagnac
also lends its name to a grape brandy from the region. Its closest
relative is Cognac, another grape brandy made about 100 miles north
near (surprise) the town of Cognac!
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.
Located in the heart of Gascony among so many
famous wine regions, Armagnac might feel as if it got shortchanged.
The soils here are sandy and contain a high level of iron, making
them far less suitable for growing Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
It is broken up in to 3 separate areas as seen in
the map above. Bas-Armagnac, the lowest in elevation, has the
sandier soils and is the chief production area for Armagnac
brandies, while Haut-Armagnac, the highest, grows hardly any grapes
The middle ground called
Ténarèze is more limestone and clay with some sandy soils mixed in.
They offer their production more to the Côtes de Gascogne and Floc
de Gascogne wines than to the distillation of brandy.
Centuries of trial and error have shown that
the grapes that do best in this region are some of the lesser known
varietals of Baco Blanc (the principal grape of the region), Ugni
Blanc (sometimes call Rolle), Folle Blanche and the somewhat better
While you may find wines on the market made
from these varietals, the vines tend to produce high acid, neutral
flavored grapes with a fairly low sugar content, usually
resulting in low alcohol wines of around 10% ABV or so.
These attributes make them much less desirable
for the table. But the French found the solution by making
Brandies are made from distilling wine -
raising the temperature of the "mash" to the point where the alcohol
vaporizes but the rest of the solution remains liquid. The vapors
are then directed away from the main mixture and cooled, allowing it
to condense back into a liquid!
This is the same basic process used for making
all spirits, with the only difference being the ingredients used to
make up the "mash". The hard part comes in having
the right equipment and knowledge to bring it all together to make
something truly special!
In the late 19th century, a man named Prosper
Delord, who was one of the few with a great deal of knowledge of the
process, recognized an opportunity and started a company as an
He would travel the region with his old pot still
towed behind his 2 cows, visiting the farms of friends and neighbors
throughout the Bas-Armagnac region, and for a fee, he would distill
their wine into what they called "Eaux-de-Vie" (waters of
He used a particularly slow single
distillation process that was key to the flavor of the final
product. Then the farmers would store the brandy in their own
barrels until it had aged properly... a matter of years! The
resultant spirit took on the name of the region,
Over the years, Prosper's reputation grew and
grew until it became impossible for him to keep up with the demand.
In 1925, his son Gaston took over the family business, but he had a
Lacking his father's wanderlust, and owning some
20 hectares of prime (1st Cru) vineyards in the heart of the
Bas-Armagnac, he established the company as a permanent site where
he could distill and sell his own brandy.
This afforded him much better control
over the entire production, allowing him to make a far superior
The Delords don't use any pesticides or
fertilizers on their vines, and their sandy soiled vineyards still
produced very high quality fruit. This is also the rule for the
other growers whose fruit ends up in Delord Armagnac.
He also continued using the same single
distillation process at low temperature, which enables more flavors,
fatty acids and character to remain in the spirit. This is now part
of the legal character of an Armagnac.
He also had worked out an
excellent recipe for his mash: 70% Ugni Blanc for a great
foundation, 20% Baco for full roundness, 5% Colombard for some
herbal notes and 5% Folle Blanche for its floral
And finally, he would include 10% Gascon oak in
his barrels to give good tannins, darker color and beautiful spices.
He also aged his Armagnac longer than the law requires, knowing that
the older it is, the smoother it becomes. (The original cellar still
holds some of Prosper's Armagnac from 1904!)
This is the recipe used today by
great-grandsons Jerome and Sylvain as they carry on the family
tradition. They have established a reputation for quality that is
Wine World is proud to be able to offer you
to opportunity to own your own bottle of this eaux-de-vie. Aged for a minimum
of 25 years, it has been called France's most natural and complex
Bas-Armagnac "25 Ans d'Age" - $79.99:
Elegant on the nose with peppery and spicy notes, it is the
palate upon which this Armagnac will unveil its true self with
a complexity of cocoa and spices, well blended tannins, vanilla,
walnut and cinnamon. Its finish is long and silky with a
delightful biscuity essence. Simply a great Bas-Armagnac
If you're a fan of great brandies, then you are
the person we were considering when the decision was made to offer
this world class Armagnac on our shelves!
Ask one of our friendly, courteous sales
associates to show it to you on your next visit!