France Gascony Armagnac
Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.
Armagnac is a beloved grape brandy, hailing from the beautiful French region of Gascony, in the south-west of the country. It has been in constant production since sometime just before the fifteenth century, and over the decades has been the toast of royal households across Europe. Today, it is still enjoyed for its unique flavor profile and characteristics, and although it is understandably compared with Cognac, its more famous cousin, lovers of Armagnac claim that its distinctive rusticity and full body make it a superior brandy, perfect as a digestif or as an evening treat.
Armagnac is made from more than one grape varietal, but the major player in this drink is the fine Ugni Blanc grape, more commonly known by its Italian name, Trebbiano. This is one of the most widely planted grape varietals in the world, and grows beautifully in Gascony, which has a similar microclimate as its neighbouring wine region, Bordeaux. Armagnac grapes reveal fascinating and complex flavors after distillation, which commonly include christmas cake, earthy, oaky notes and praline.
Armagnac is sold under two categories - vintage, and non-vintage. A vintage Armagnac is made from a blend of grapes which have been grown in a single year, and will have the date printed on the label. Non-vintage Armagnacs, on the other hand, are labelled according to their age. V.S indicates that the brandy has been aged for a minimum of two years, VSOP for four years, XO six years, and Hors d’Age is a premium Armagnac which has been aged for at least ten years.