Nestled in the Gascogne territory of the Gers department in South-West France is armagnac country. Armagnac, the alcohol, is in fact an aged eau de vie (which is an aged fruit based brandy). Authentic Armagnac can only be produced and distilled in this very small area of France and is not widely known outside of France, contrary to its bigger competitor and better known Cognac.
We visited the Chateau de Salles, an Armagnac producer, in the small town of Salles D’Armagnac.
What was most surprising is the very limited quantities produced each year by the majority of armagnac producers. Contrary to Cognac, most estates are quite small and armagnac can only be produced in this very small region. The owner of the estate explained that it usually only takes two or three days for the wine-making process, once the grapes have been picked. There is very little time between vinification and distillation.
The distillation, though done at the estate is actually outsourced to an ambulant distiller who travels the region distilling for these small estates who cannot afford to own an Armagnac alembic for such small productions.
Once the eau de vie is distilled, it isn’t yet considered Armagnac. Only aging the brandy in oak barrels transforms it into Armagnac. The eau de vie is in fact clear like water and the rich brown robe only comes from the aging process. The quality of the Armagnac is also dependent on the barrels being kept in a dark, fresh setting and the expert craftsmanship of the producers who know when to transfer the Armagnac from one barrel to another depending on its age.
The armagnac estate also produces Floc de Gascogne, an apéritif drink to be consumed before dinner. It is made by mixing together young Armagnac and raisin juice on the first day of the harvest. It is sweet and strong with a floral quality.
Château de Salles
Dominique et Benoît Hébert
32370 Salles D’Armagnac
Tél.: 05 62 69 03 11
Fax : 05 62 69 07 18
Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org