Origin

Armagnac is very similar to cognac yet has suffered a very different fate. Despite an equally glorious past, it has managed to retain all of its authentic, traditional and artisanal character; a character that is sometimes difficult to control, not unlike the region and growers who produce it. In contrast to this image, armagnac has gradually gained in sophistication to become a regulated product.

  • Vignes du Chateau de Bordeneuve © Baron de Sigognac
  • Alambic © Baron de Sigognac
  • Contrôle des fûts © Baron de Sigognac
  • Cachetage à la cire © Baron de Sigognac

Armagnac – an authentic character

Armagnac is very similar to cognac yet has suffered a very different fate. Despite an equally glorious past, it has managed to retain all of its authentic, traditional and artisanal character; a character that is sometimes difficult to control, not unlike the region and growers who produce it. In contrast to this image, armagnac has gradually gained in sophistication to become a regulated product.

It never rains but it pours.

Thanks to the Dutch who, during the 17th Century, bought the majority of the wine on the French Atlantic coast, armagnac was slowly able to establish itself not only in Europe but also in the United States. From the 19th century, merchants who had become <i>négociants-éleveurs</i> (merchant-producers) began to control stocks, to build wine cellars and to monitor the ageing process of the eau de vie in order to improve the spirits’ reputation.
Unfortunately, disaster struck and the armagnac region, at that time covering 110,000 hectares, was totally annihilated by a series of diseases. In 1860, powdery mildew attacked the vines for the first time. From 1878, and within the space of five years, phylloxera devastated practically all of the plants. In 1887, mildew continued the destruction that phylloxera had began a few years earlier. Then in 1890, another bacteria called Black Rot dealt the finishing blow to the vines. It was not until 1898 that a certain François Baco, a teacher by profession, created the Baco 22A or Baco Blanc, a hybrid of Folle Blanche and Noah (an American grape variety that is resistant to Phylloxera). This variety went on to dominate armagnac production from 1920 to 1970.

The decree of 6th August 1936

By the end of the 19th century, the dearth of armagnac eau de vie opened the way for fraud and counterfeits. Several decrees were passed from 1909 onwards to protect the eau de vie and provide it with a legislative framework. The decree of 6th August 1936 laid down the constitutive requirements for the Armagnac appellation, defined as follows:

  • the appellation areas: Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Ténarèze and Haut-Armagnac as well as the municipalities included in this appellation in Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne;
  • the grape varieties: ten grape varieties were recognised at the time, including Baco. The recognition of this hybrid is a true accolade to François Baco’s work. The decree originally provided for its final harvest date fixed in 2010. However, this was lifted in 2005, making Baco Blanc the only AOC-authorised hybrid grape variety;
  • production methods: vinification, distillation and ageing. Although it is imperative that armagnac must be conserved in oak ‘containers’, the decree did not specify, at the time, either size or the minimum legal duration for the ageing phase;
  • the labelling and mandatory requirements
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