Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Armagnac tulip-shaped glass.
Domestically it’s most well-liked to a snifter.
Armagnac is South of Bordeaux, Cognac is North of Bordeaux.
Many individuals count on that Armagnac and Cognac to have comparable
tastes; nonetheless, these brandies have palpable variations. They’re certainly each
grape brandies, and each come from France; nonetheless, kind of, there their
similarities finish. The grapes used are totally different, and the style and aroma are
totally different. So as to add to the arguments the residents of each areas are very sad
when somebody reveals their ignorance and treats the 2 brandies as the identical.
The grapes utilized in Armagnac come from vineyards to the southeast
of Bordeaux; the world covers a part of the outdated province of Gascogne, Gascony. The
different well-known French grape brandy is Cognac and comes from northeast of Bordeaux. (Calvados is an AOP
A Baron de Lustrac assortment of classic Armagnacs.
Classic Armagnacs should be not less than ten years within the barrel earlier than
courtesy of Dominic Lockyer
My understanding of Armagnac and Cognac variations have been bolstered
after we traveled from Angouleme, 50 km (31 miles) from the city of Cognac
to a well-recommended resort and restaurant to the southeast of Bordeaux within the
On the finish of a wonderful meal, with my espresso, within the land of
Armagnac, with out considering I requested a Cognac! My request introduced a really sniffy response from
an in any other case pleasant, educated, and useful sommelier, the wine steward. “We solely serve
Armagnacs,” he stated and continued, “this space is the house of
Armagnac; you will see that no Cognac right here.”
Now the backers of the prevalence of Armagnac to Cognac and
vice versa all declare that “their” brandy is way superior. The opposite
brandy is eternally doomed to a distant second place. With a withering look, the
sommelier let me understand how low I had dropped in his day by day customer’s rankings.
Now for actually licensed Armagnac supporters, no Cognac might ever be acceptable;
nonetheless, I’ve realized that that can be their loss. Nonetheless, I took the educated
sommelier’s (wine steward’s) recommendation and ordered a not too costly
Armagnac….it was wonderful. Whereas the arguments over Armagnac and Cognac
by no means finish in France, I comply with my style buds and luxuriate in them each.
Baron de Sigognac
1974 Classic Armagnac, Bas Armagnac.
The label could also be occurring fifty,
however the Armagnac will solely be as outdated because it was when it was bottled.
Most likely twenty years.
courtesy of Dominic Lockyer
There are three Armagnac
appellations with totally different soils which are graded for the wines produced there:
Thought-about by many to be the most effective.
Armagnac-Ténarèze – Simply
Haut-Armagnac – Right now,
little or no Armagnac is produced on this appellation, so it’s unlikely to be
on many labels.
Blanche Armagnac – A colorless Armagnac made with an eau-de-vie from
any appellation or mix bought after ageing for not less than three months in
stainless-steel containers. The Blanche Armagnac is nearest to a 40% alcohol Marc
(Grappa) and most normally seen in cocktails.The Blanche Armagnac might be made
from the grapes of any Armagnac appellation or mix. No appellation will
seem on the label.
The Armagnac Appellations
Photograph courtesy of France Today
Ten totally different grapes could also be used to provide the wines that can
change into Armagnac. These should not grown for desk wines, they’re grown just for Armagnac,
and right now solely 4 of the grapes are usually used: Colombard, Folle Blanche,
Baco, and Ugni Blanc.
Every Armagnac home might mix wines from throughout the identical
appellation after which determine if they may use solely that eau-de-vie from a single
yr. Then the appellation will probably be famous on the label, appropriately together with the
yr of bottling. Right now, to the label is added the variety of years within the
barrel. If the producer makes use of eau-de-vie mixtures from totally different
appellations or distills the Armagnac exterior the appellation, no appellation
could also be famous.
The Armagnac producers come from the departments of Gers and
Midi-Pyrénées within the area of Occitanie and the departments of Landes and
Lot-et-Garonne in Nouvelle Aquitaine. The city of Eauze within the division of
Gers is the financial capital of the Armagnac area. The English language
web site of their vacationer info workplace is:
Most Armagnacs bought are classic brandies, which suggests they arrive
from a specific yr and should not blended with eau-de-vies from different years.
In contrast to blended Armagnacs and Cognacs, which have two distillations, the lengthy
ageing is the supply of the Armagnac style. Classic Armagnacs are sometimes aged in a
barrel for 15 years or extra, with a minimal of ten, and consequently are extra
costly than blended Armagnacs. The yr of the classic defines Armagnac; the
cognoscenti know which years are the most effective. After 10,15, 20 years in a barrel
(on the most 40 years), the brandy is transferred to glass containers referred to as
demijohns till bottled. Armagnacs, like whiskeys, would deteriorate in the event that they
have been in a barrel for greater than forty years, and most will probably be in a barrel for
lower than twenty years.
A V.S.O.P. Blended Armagnac.
courtesy of Pierre LANNES
A youthful Armagnac is paler
in colour than and never as easy as an aged Armagnac. If you would like a much less
costly however, easy Armagnac select a blended Armagnac, it can have been
double distilled. Choose your blended Armagnac from amongst these the place the youngest
eau de vie, the brandy used, will probably be not less than 4 years outdated, after which the
brandy must be easy. Blended Armagnacs are produced in a lot smaller
portions than classic Armagnacs and have costs just like Cognacs. It’s the
single-year classic Armagnacs that are distinctive and costly.
The ages of
Blended Armagnacs present solely
the official markings that point out the age of the youngest brandy within the
V.S., (Very Particular), or ***, three stars – On the
label for an Armagnac the place the youngest eau-de-vie within the mix was matured in
oak barrels for not less than one yr.
V.O., (Very Outdated); V.S.O.P. (V.S.O.P.), (Very
Superior Outdated Pale) and Réserve – The youngest eau-de-vie in these Armagnacs could have
been matured in oak barrels for not less than 4 years.
Vielle Réserve, (Historic Reserve);
Additional; (Additional), and Napoléon –
All of the eau-de-vies in these Armagnacs could have been aged for not less than six
years in oak barrels.
X.O. (Additional Outdated). X.O., Hors d’Age –
Too Outdated to Decide. This label might solely be used when the youngest eau-de-vie
within the mix is ten years outdated.
XX0, X.X.0. and X0 Premium –
This label might solely be used when the youngest brandy within the mix is twenty
One of many names for a
6-year-old plus blended Armagnac is Napoléon. Now all the numerous Napoleons
within the historical past books had lengthy gone earlier than any of the Armagnacs bearing the title
have been in a barrel. So, until the Napoleon you’re considering of is among the
household’s descendants, six years outdated and only a yr out of kindergarten, this
has no connection to Napoleon.
The job of selecting the wines
and mixing those who will probably be blended with different appellations or blended with
totally different years and twice distilled blends is carried out by the Maitre de
Chai’ (pronounced shay), the cellar grasp. His or her nostril and style buds,
coupled together with his or her information over a few years, make it a important and
extremely paid job.
In contrast to wines, aged brandies
in glass bottles don’t change for higher or for worse whereas in a bottle.
Keep in mind to verify the label when paying for an outdated Armagnac; it might be a
45-year-old bottle, however you’re simply paying for a ten-year-old Armagnac inside?
After you’ve paid a small
fortune for that wonderful bottle of classic Armagnac, observe that, not like wine,
however like whiskey, the bottle should be saved upright because the liquor assaults the
courtesy of Armagnac 700
Millésimes– Classic Armagnacs
The yr on the bottle signifies
the yr of the harvest.
The variety of years within the barrel
just isn’t essentially mirrored on the label.
The brandies chosen to be classic Armagnacs are
chosen by the cellar grasp and saved to age in above-ground buildings or
caves referred to as chais (pronounced shays). The way in which the barrels are saved, the
area between the barrels, and the temperature and humidity will all have an effect on the
remaining style. Yearly almost 3% of the contents are misplaced via the wooden of
the barrel; this 3% is named the angel’s share.
Armagnacs, don’t come out of the distillation
and ageing course of with the identical style as if you open the bottle. The hand of
man gently improves the product. In Armagnac, Cognac, and Calvados, plain
water, sugar syrup, and or Boise, a liquid produced from boiled oak chips, could also be
added for extra of that “pure” aged oak taste. That lovely
” heat colour” we admire when holding our “snifter” or
Armagnac tulip glass, as much as the sunshine might come from a contact of caramel that was
added. Don’t let these synthetic additions put you off having fun with your Armagnac,
98% or extra is Armagnac; I nonetheless take pleasure in sniffing and admiring the colour of my
favourite; nonetheless, it was made. Creating an excellent Armagnac is the work of nice
fruit, nice land, climate, and an excellent man or lady within the cellar.
The Maitre de Chai follows and checks the
barrels as they age, and as wanted, the barrels could also be moved to a unique
chai with totally different humidity and temperature. The Armagnac begins to mellow
via the lengthy ageing interval, and its colour adjustments to darker amber. Right here the
expertise, tongue, and nostril of the cellar grasp are of the best
significance. You will see that cellar masters who’ve been with the identical Armagnac
home their entire life, and probably she or he inherited the job.
Armagnac on French menus:
Paupiettes de Veau aux Pruneaux
et à l’Armagnac –
Skinny slices of veal, rolled and full of prunes and flavored with Armagnac.
de Veau Flambés à l’Armagnac – Veal kidneys Flambed with Armagnac.
Tartelette Noix de Pécan, Crémeux Verjus,
Armagnac et Raisin Croquants – A small pecan tart ready with a creamy verjus
flavored with caramel and served with Armagnac ice
cream and crunchy grapes.
Shopping for a bottle of classic Armagnac.
To purchase a bottle of classic Armagnac, you want
an professional with you or not less than an up-to-date guide on the totally different years
accessible from different producers. Armagnacs are, for probably the most half, made and bought
by comparatively small producers. If the Armagnac Home you’re visiting or the
wine outlets supply a style of the Armagnacs from an opened bottle, take a style
and pay for it after which style one other earlier than you determine. With out an professional at
your elbow, that is the one approach that almost all of us can purchase classic Armagnacs.
For blended Armagnacs, you do not want an professional;
you may journey within the space and style as many Armagnacs as are on present for a
small contribution to the native financial system. The most effective buys are primarily 4 and
six-year-old blends, however, caveat emptor, be sure to style them earlier than
courtesy of Florian
The bottling of classic Armagnacs
When a classic Armagnac has been aged lengthy
sufficient in a barrel, it’s transferred to giant glass bottles referred to as demijohns; the
bigger of those bottles can maintain 40 liters. When the Armagnac is transferred to
an everyday bottle the date of the classic should even be on the label and the
cork. The Armagnac might have been aged within the barrel for fifteen years, and the
label also needs to present the date it was bottled. If the date signifies 1970, do
not let anybody attempt to inform you that that was aged for 50 years. The
Armagnac is perhaps ten years outdated or twenty years outdated, and its style, not like
wine, won’t modified as soon as it was bottled. Outdated Armagnacs from nice classic
years are pricey. If 1920 was an excellent
yr and the Armagnac was produced after it was aged for twenty years, you may
nonetheless buy a bottle of that stunning brandy in 2021. It can style because it did in 1940.
Classic Armagnacs present the yr of the classic
and the appellation on the label. Different names, equivalent to Millennium or Particular,
and so forth., could also be added to the label. These are unofficial names; they’re creations
of the advertising division. They signify the private views of that Armagnac
I examine an Armagnac lover who checks an
Armagnac by dipping his finger within the brandy and wiping it on his wrist like
fragrance. Then after permitting twenty to thirty seconds to go, throughout which
time the alcohol burns off, he slowly sniffs the aroma of the Armagnac with out
the alcohol. He claimed this take a look at gave him a wonderful thought of what the
Armagnac will probably be like. I’ve tried that
methodology; sadly, I should not have sufficient tastings to create a reminiscence retailer
on Armagnac aromas.
Floc de Gascogne Blanc.
courtesy of Dominic Lockyer
The Armagnac apéritif is named the Floc de Gascogne.
The well-known Armagnac apéritifs, which you’ll
be supplied within the space and elsewhere, are the Floc de Gascogne Blanc and
Rosé. The white aperitif combines the
juice of white grapes that might in any other case have been used for an everyday white
wine with a matured Armagnac. The Floc
de Gascogne Rosé is named a rosé, although it’s crimson and produced from the juice of
grapes utilized in crimson wines combined with an Armagnac.
Floc de Gascogne is a refreshing apéritif; it
ought to at all times be served cool, even higher when well-chilled, however by no means frozen
or served with ice. It’s nice and comparatively straightforward to drink with out
realizing that it is extremely alcoholic. This refreshing apéritif has an alcohol
content material of over 16%! You’ve gotten been warned: three or 4 of those simply
quaffed aperitifs, and your head might spin with the wonders of Gascogne! Formally, these wines are referred to as Vins de
Liqueur; they deliberately have the method of fermentation stopped earlier than
completion. The result’s a wine with a excessive sugar content material created by including
Armagnac, which stops the fermentation.
When you purchase a bottle or two of Floc de Gascogne
to take residence, guarantee that they’re this yr’s manufacturing. Floc de Gascogne
is greatest when drunk very younger, and it deteriorates shortly; in any case it’s far
too pleasurable to go away on the shelf. The apéritifs Pineaux de Charente from
Cognac and the aperitif Pommeau from Calvados, are made utilizing comparable
The Counts of Armagnac.
Armagnac is called after the Counts of Armagnac,
who dominated over the world from about 960 CE. The counts remained theoretically
underneath the rule of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England throughout the
numerous English – French wars, however they pledged allegiance to France. For the reason that
system of distillation used for liquor was solely developed within the thirteenth
century. Most likely the primary brandy
referred to as Armagnac, named after the Counts, was made within the 14th century. The
counts disappeared someplace within the wars between France and England, however the
brandy and its title stay.
La Bastide D’Armagnac
The city of Labastide-d’Armagnac within the division of Landes
and was based in 1291 by Bernard VI, Rely of Armagnac.
courtesy of Pierre_Bn
Impartial Armagnac estates will at all times present
the area’s tackle on the entrance label, together with the appellation
(Bas-Armagnac, Ténarèze, Haut-Armagnac). If not, the spirit was bottled by a
négociant ( a wholesaler) in one other a part of France, then they could have labels
that solely learn “Armagnac.” The
labels that simply reads Armagnac is both as a result of the liquor is a mix of
numerous appellations or as a result of the grapes have been grown in a single appellation of
Armagnac and distilled in one other.
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Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
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