Armagnac, Cognac, Brandy – what’s in a name?
Southwest France produces two well-known brandies. While Cognac is certainly the more famous, it is Armagnac that speaks to the soul of the Southwest. All Cognac is brandy…but not all French brandy is Cognac! Both Cognac and Armagnac are designated AOP regions, and as such have regulations controlling the permitted grapes, production methods and age designations.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Cognac region
The Cognac region is just north of Bordeaux, so as such is not strictly “South West”. It contains six sub-appellations. By regulation the three primary grapes comprise a minimum of 90% of the blend. The wine is double-distilled to approximately 70% ABV, to which water is added to reduce to the usual 40% ABV. Known for being smooth, Cognacs are (generalising!) overall lighter in aroma and texture, with floral aromas and cereal notes on the palate.
The Armagnac region
The Armagnac region is truly South West geographically, in the heart of the Gers in Gascony, and contains three sub-appellations. Apart from geography, there’s a distinctive difference on many levels from Cognac. First – and notably – there are ten permitted grape varieties. While four are the most common, there are producers reviving many of the lesser-known varieties, and producing single-varietal brandies. I’ve walked through a (slightly dizzying) tasting over six single-varietal Armagnacs, as well as various blends: let me tell you, the taste profiles are as distinctive as with wine. The wines traditionally undergo a single distillation in a column still, producing a spirit between 54%-58% ABV; which is generally not reduced with water. (Though in export markets, this is often the case so you will see Armagnac at the common 40% ABV – suitable for local laws and palates.) Considered France’s oldest spirit, you’re sipping a bit of history here. Overall, Armagnacs will be richer in aroma with a fatter texture than Cognac, spicier and earthier on the palate. Being more grape-varietal specific, there’s a wider breadth of tasting notes as well – perfect for constant discovery.
Much smaller in production scale, it’s not uncommon to see small wineries producing their own distinctive Armagnac – which you can pick up at any of the weekly markets in the region.
While I do enjoy a nice snifter of Cognac, it is the bolder Armagnac of the Southwest that truly gets me excited. So much so, we bought a historic home right in the midst of the region – which we now operate as a holiday rental property (details here).
So come and discover the gastronomic and oenophilic joys of the region! For more of our favourite picks in the “other” South of France, check out this post!
Read more about Nérac and the surrounding area:
French Winophiles Explore Southwest France
Take a look at all the discoveries made by our Winophiles group!
- Jill at L’occasion shares Périgord Wines: Bergerac and Duras
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Southern France at a Midwest BBQ
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam shares Pistachio-Armagnac Sabayon with Strawberries and Meringues
- Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares #Winophiles Showdown: Madiran vs Applegate Valley
- Rob from Odd Bacchus shares Bergerac: Underappreciated Wines & Controversial Cuisine
- Martin from Enofylz shares Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Arrufiac? Oh My!
- Olivier from In Taste Buds We Trust shares If it makes you happy…
- Nicole from Somm’s Table shares Cooking to the Wine: Paul Bertrand Crocus Malbec de Cahors with Lavender-Herb Ribeye and Grilled Veggies
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares Basque-ing in the Sud-Ouest: Wines of Irouléguy
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Toast #TDF2017 with Wines from the Côtes de Gascogne
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares Finding and Pairing Southwest France Wine Cheese & Spirits for French
- Mardi from eat.live.travel.write. shares two posts (!) Clafoutis, Southwest France style and Armagnac: A Primer
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares Exploring Madiran with Vignobles Brumont
Join our chat on Saturday July 15th 2017 at 10-11am CDT (11am EDT, 8am PDT, and 1700 hours in France)! See what we think of Southwest France, and tell us about your experiences with the wine, food, or travel in the region! Simply log into Twitter and search for the #winophiles tag, and you’re in!
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