Armagnac Castarede 1980 (700ml)
Unlike Cognac, Armagnac is an industry and tradition driven largely by local producers and domestic consumption. Whereas Cognac was focused on export and enterprise, Armagnac has its roots in small-scale agricultural distilling.
Located in the Bas-Armagnac region, Castarède is the oldest registered French Armagnac trading House still in operation today under its sixth generation owner: Florence Castarède. This family business produces an excellent range of both non-vintage and vintage Armagnac with an extensive back catalog of past vintages available.
The nose is rich with stewed fruits, cedary oak and enticing aromas of pecans, honey, plums and white pepper. After some time, sweeter notes of vanilla, sticky dates, and old muscat develop. The palate is silky and elegant with dried fruits, bread pudding, toffee and baking spices with gentle fine tannins on the finish. Great finesse and surprisingly delicate for an old Armagnac.
Armagnac is the oldest grape-based spirit in France and is produced from high acidity but low alcoholic potential grapes (predominantly Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Baco 22A). At Castarède, these grapes are pressed and naturally fermented without the use of sulphur or added sugar. After the base wine is finished fermenting, distillation begins in the winter.
Armagnac is distilled only once in a continous still known as an Alambic Armagnacais to an alcohol percentage of roughly 50-65% alcohol whereas the more famous Cognac is double distilled in a pot still to around 70% alcohol. This difference in distillation has a profound impact on the final spirit. Since Armagnac is only distilled once, the spirit is fuller-bodied and more fruity but also considerably more fiery and rough around the edges. Intensity is the price you pay for complexity, and subsequently Armagnac usually needs significant oak-ageing in order to smooth out those rough edges.
In the case of vintage Armagnac, all the base wine and subsequent spirit must be from a single harvest year, and it must be aged for a minimum of 10 years in wood prior to being bottled. Armagnac does not age in the bottle so it is important to keep track of not only when the spirit was distilled but when it was bottled. Castarède includes both the distillation and bottling dates on all of their vintage Armagnac and while some vintages may be left at their natural alcoholic strength most are diluted to 40% alcohol by volume prior to bottling.