Subtle and Complex Armagnac Brandy (One of France’s Best Kept Secrets)
Cognac is renowned and exported throughout the world, Armagnac on the other hand is more renowned within France. Due to its lengthy history of production—this spirit is also embedded in the history of the extraordinary French cuisine.
Grapes to make Armagnac are grown inland around the Garonne River between the city of Bordeaux and the southern Pyrenees peaks—where the climate is continental. Grapes for Cognac, in comparison, grow adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean between the cities of Bordeaux and La Rochelle where the climate is both temperate and oceanic. Whereas 95% of Cognac is produced from the Ugni Blanc grape that thrives above limestone soils, grapes for Armagnac include Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Baco and Colombard, which sprout over quartz sand and siliceous clay soils. Cognac is double distilled, whereas Armagnac is usually distilled only once, hence includes a lower alcohol content.
Château de Laubade
The prestigious Armagnac house of Château de Laubade dates back to 1870 and was purchased by their current owner, the Lesgourgues family in 1974. It rests upon 250 acres (103 hectares) of vines, as well as an oak forest and a poplar grove. The poplars help regulate humidity during the Spring, when nearby lands receive ample moisture and rain from the Pyrenees peaks. The Laubade estate includes seven separate cellars which hold Dame Jeanne green glass globes as well as 420-liter (111 gallon) barrels. The estate also ages oak staves from the Gascogne region on their property, which they then pass to a Cooper each year to make barrels.
Denis Lesgourgues, co-owner of Château de Laubade, details that his father had the vision to become a great Armagnac producer. He decided to plant more vines and to age Armagnac. He built inventory for eight years before he was able to sell his first bottle. Fortunately, he had funds from having already been successful in agriculture to provide him the time to age the brandy.
‘Armagnac is less known than Cognac. We want to offer something different that represents a genuine style of Armagnac, in order to defend it,’ explained Denis Lesgourgues.
The family’s stately home sits before two cedar of Lebanon trees and a distant vista of the snow-capped Pyrenees peaks. A magical and historical place. Not surprising it produces one of the most admired spirits in the world.
Château de Laubade Bas Armagnac 1974 (700 ml) France, Southwest
$320.00 ($1,920.00 per case) 6 pack
Rated 90, Superb/Highly Recommended: 90-95, Wine Enthusiast
"The first nosings detect dark fudge, vanilla extract and dried herbs; following aeration layered aromas of oak/pine, old saddle leather and crème caramel candy are added—a gorgeous bouquet. Palate entry is long, deep and bittersweet; at midpalate the flavor turns toasty/smoky, sap-like and chewy. Finishes on a maple-like note that's semisweet and lip-smackingly delicious."