The Vintage, unique in Armagnac
Close to vintage wine, but yet so different …
In the world of spirits where most are products made from cereals or other distilled raw materials throughout the year, Armagnac is, on the contrary, a natural extension of the culture of the vine with its cycles, its years… its vintages. Notwithstanding, the art of blending is very wide spread in Armagnac: VSOP, Hors d’Age, 25 years old, offering a palette of tastes, aromas, balance and consistency that reassures its customers. The vintage in Armagnac is another thing; close to wines but so different.
Take a plot of vines in the heart of Armagnac, of Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc or Baco. It becomes enriched with the year’s climatic conditions and it is cultivated in such a way in order to obtain acidic wines that are low in alcohol that will give fruity and floral eaux-de-vie.
The time for distillation arrives. The alambic, the number of its plates, its heat, its adjustment, the choice of the distillate strength are many factors that will affect the concentration and the quality of the eau-de-vie that leaves the apparatus.
The story is far from being finished. The winegrower and the cellar master put the Armagnac into barrels. They choose the cooper, the grain of the wood, the toasting of the barrel. Depending on the quality of the aromas, the structure of the vintage in the mouth, they decide on the time that it should spend in new oak, the aerations and eventual reductions. Ways and expertise that will accompany the Armagnac for 20 years, 40 years …
The quality of each vintage is therefore partly related to the climatic conditions of that year. For this reason, most vintages in the Armagnac region are potentially marketable. Nevertheless, these eaux-de-vie require particular care, individual attention during ageing adapted to each eau-de-vie and finally a selection of years will be chosen to be vintages. Ultimately, each vintage from each producer has its own character and personality, its own style with notes of patisserie, aromas of dried fruits, notes more volatile or soft, with intensity or mildness. This is the realm of tailor-made, the very top-of-the-range.
Connoisseurs love the vintage Armagnacs as they can discover original eaux-de-vie that surprise them or reflect their taste. Through their work of selection, the producers, merchants and restaurateurs guide these clients in their search for particular uniqueness and character.
Original, personal gift, though more and more …. scarce
An Armagnac vintage is often associated with life’s anniversary dates. It is a market for vintages that is different from that for the connoisseurs that come for the pleasure of looking to discover a rare product. A birthday, a wedding anniversary or other event that is celebrated 20, 50 years later with the vintage of that year. A way to turn back the clock with an Armagnac vintage to rekindle memories of a path taken and maturity gained along the way.
To meet this demand, the producer and the merchants know which eaux-de-vie are the most requested. 2014 is here and therefore vintages with a 4 are in high demand. A brief overview of these years:
2004 is still relatively young, though certain Armagnacs with little wood are already very pleasant, floral, fruity and still retain the youth of the eau-de-vie.
1994 was a good year in Armagnac. Production was significant so there is a lot of choice and styles vary depending on the houses though the eaux-de-vie are exuberant and very expressive at this stage … they are 20 years old (no need to say more)!
1984 : the vineyards suffered heavy frosts, so this year is RARE. The producers hadn’t seen such disastrous frosts like it since 1977. At this stage, the Armagnac often displays notes of candied fruits and rancio.
1974 : A variety of production, a great maturity with mellow perfumes from the vine and the wood, these vintages at the end of the 60s are often great quality and value for money.
1964 is a very RARE year, one of the rarest of the decade. There is no doubt as to the attractiveness of its 50 years, so there will be practically no more in a few months.
This vertical tasting stops there though one can still find older vintages. Those bottles of Armagnac of over 50 years are exceptional treasures that will soon be unobtainable.