Legend of Armagnac, France
|That region of the Bas-Armagnac once called Grand Bas-Armagnac is a region of Arts; the art of celebrating life, taking its inspiration from an abundant and generous nature. The pines Landes color, the golden sunflowers, the green vineyards in the sun, combine to compose a picture of color and flavor. The Foie Gras from the local geese and ducks adds its regional flavor to the mix. Above and below the sun and the soil provide the foundation of the area's richness, especially that of the vineyards.
For many years the Darroze family has devoted its time to learning the soils and the vineyards to better select those estates and brandies which contain the subtle flavors that mark a great Bas-Armagnac.
In 1974 Francis Darroze started his business as a trader and producer of vintage Bas Armagnacs. For this he relied on years of experience, tasting, visits to the ageing cellars of Bas-Armagnac, the part of Armagnac where the most rich, complex and interesting spirits are produced. The initial idea was simple: to create awareness of a region and its extraordinarily varied wine-producing soils, rich and marked by history while respecting the originality and typical nature of each estate.
Of all French regions, Gascony is without a doubt the one affected least and least by the march of time. Today, the people, the families, remain very individualistic, proud of what they have ready to join together to defend common values.
The art of brandy tasting is part of this way of life, taking one's time, appreciating that special moment of encountering an Armagnac.
Faced with a glass of Armagnac, the whole Gascon environment is conjured up, the soil, the people, the legends. The quality of a brandy, at the same time gentle and wild, an expression of the very personality and being of the peasants conviviality, friendship, loyalty, all still have meaning in this part of France.
Everything is in Armagnac for an outstanding vineyard:
On a geological level, the ocean has played a vital role in the quality of Bas-Armagnac. The to-and-fro of the ancient tides deposited the marine sand now called the "Tawny sands of Bas-Armagnac" marvelous soil for the region's vines.
The soil structure is also an important factor. The land is mostly siliceous clay, often lacking in chalk sometimes acid and covered with the famous tawny sands so beneficial to the growth of the Bas-Armagnac vines.
The Landes forest is very close to the Bas-Armagnac vineyards, form a natural barrier regulating temperature and precipitation.
The vine types are closely linked to the soil and the climate in defining a wine growing area. Armagnac, unlike Cognac has range of vines, all different, giving the balance of flavor so typical of the region:
Baco: retains a dominant role, especially in Bas-Armagnac. It contributes to the structure of the alcohols and gives rich, full bodied flavors which require long ageing to express all their fullness, their smoothness and their flavor.
Folle Blanche: brings freshness and fruitiness in the first years of ageing. Along with Baco it is part of the cultural heritage of Armagnac.
Ugni Blanc: an ideal variety for distillation and Colombard complete the list of the most widely used varieties in the region.
Distillation in the Bas-Armagnac is a single continuous process that is the wine is only heated once. This method noticeably different from that used to make Cognac, allows the brandy to improve and in particular to take on uniqueness which is the glory of the land.
Distillation is not a technique; it is an art which only certain experts have fully mastered.
Armagnac is the most noble and most ancient brandies. The still introduces by the Arabs was first used in the region in 1411.
In 1411 "Alchemist Recipes" the famous manuscript in the Auch City's describes some thirty uses of brandy as medicine. Thus was born Armagnac.
This is why the Darroze Family had their alcohols distilled on their various estates with a mobile still and always by the same "bouilleur de cru".
All Darroze Armagnac's are distilled using this method, traditional in the region for over150 years and come out of the still at between 52-54% alcohol by volume.
The tasting of brandies is not particularly different to wines tasting. The first impression when one puts an Armagnac in the mouth is the "heat" of the alcohol, which briefly anaesthetises the taste buds and masks the flavor. It is necessary to "obliterate" the sometimes invasive presence of the alcohol by allowing the brandy to breathe for a long time and above all by taking time to taste and appreciate. Because the key, above all, to tasting, is pleasure. Do not get hung up with a technique which take all your attention and distract you from the joy which the tasting of your Armagnac should bring you.
After 15 years, ageing that Armagnac develops all the qualities which make it an inimitable brandy. A blend of gentleness and violence, these Armagnacs have an extremely long lasting aftertaste. The flavors of hazelnut, orange peel, cocoa and quince combine with the odors of rose, verbena, leather, vanilla and even cinnamon.
These Armagnacs have a body and fullness which exalt the land.
After 25 years, Armagnac brandy loses its strength, softens, and becomes mellow, very smooth. The original character is diluted by the oak vat. The aftertaste becomes remarkable, noticeable over a day later, suppleness and elegance definitively taking over from warmth.
After 35 years, the conditions of production become vital. The brandy's past, the quality of the oak in which it has developed is very important factors. Brandy which has stayed too long in the same cask without attention paid to it becomes worn out, over-softened. But fortunately one can find products which are so strong in their youth that they lose little over the years.
The Darroze Armagnac are recognized and selected by top professional. They are proud to be on the top restaurants 3 stars Michelin as: