THE ART OF TASTING

 
 

To fully appreciate as an expert the rich and powerful fragrances of the armagnac Pichon-Longueville, try it  as an aperitif, like a whiskey, or at the end of a meal, like a cognac.

Have it swing in a large glass with a twist of the wrist, allowing it to aerate while contemplating it’s mysterious sheen (is that mahogany, copper or golden brown?). Then langourously, begin to delicately smell the subtle aroma, and taste voluptuously, taking small sips. It will begin to share its soul with you, revealing the secret of “infinite things, which sing the ecstasies of the mind and senses.” (Baudelaire). Take your time, these straight armagnacs are powerful, gently inhale and slowly get closer, just as we do as we approach a crackling open fire, finding the best distance is a personal decision and of upmost importance. Inhale and breathe through your nose into the glass, when you expire into the glass the air temperature warms the armagnac a little and in return it will deliver new fragrances every time.  After a while, you simply get used to it, and then the most volatile esters evaporate, leaving you the discovery of the most unexpected fragrances. The same applies to the palate, take your time. At first clap your tongue up your palet and swallow slowly without letting any air in your mouth, then as you get more acquinted, let the Armagnac simmer in your mouth while allowing the air to pass through your nose (retro nasal breathing).

A very bold video about armagnac tasting, made in a particular atmosphere. Credit to Charles Neal and his friends. Steph.
 
 

ARMAGNAC TERMINOLOGY

Without meaning to give specific names to the fragrances felt by the nose, (the palate can only perceive acidity, sweetness, and saltiness), the following terms are commonly used: unpleasant, (rough), ordinary, fine, distinguished, sophisticated, very fine. In order to characterize the strength of an Armagnac, here are some examples: flat, weak-discreet, light, fragrant, fresh, hot, strong, heavy, ‘montant’ (first fragrance to the nose from the palate), violent, aggressive. Remember that everyone perceives things differently, so there is no ‘truth’ behind these terms which are often a bit too succinct. Some sophisticated palates will say that an Armagnac is light, wishing to express a rare quality, while others, of a more sportive nature, might appreciate the violence and indeed aggressive character of an Armagnac because it is what they are expecting. A professional taster will find a multitude of terms to describe the experience, to tell a story, to compare and to communicate as one might do with a friend.


DESIGNATIONS

Armagnac is a brandy of wines aged in oak barrels, with a golden brown color, produced in parts of the departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne, in southwestern France.

This generic designation is sub-divided into three smaller geographic areas:

* The “bas-armagnac” is an Armagnac produced in the western part of Gers and part of Landes.

* The ”armagnac-ténarèze” is anarmagnac produced in another part of the appellation area, which corresponds to the north of the Gers and a part of the Lot-et-Garonne.

* The “haut-armagnac” is an armagnac produced in the rest of the appellation area, in the eastern and southern parts.

* Finally, the “blanche-armagnac” is a designation that is a little bit unusual, because it’s a brandy that is not aged in wood, which explains it’s translucent appearance.