Introduction to Armagnac

Armagnac, the oldest French eau-de-vie is celebrating 7 centuries of history in 2010. To celebrate, 3 UK Armagnac Ambassadors have been elected to promote the world's finest grape spirit. Read all about it at

At the beginning of the 14th century, Maitre Vital Dufour, prior of Eauze in Gascony, considered that this eau-de-vie had '40 virtues or uses' to 'conserve one's health and stay on top form'.

Today, Armagnac is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, made essentially from 4 grape varieties : Ugni-Blanc, Folle blanche, Baco and Colombard. It covers 3 areas : Bas-Armagnac, Haut-Armagnac and Armagnac-Ténarèze. The Armagnac eaux-de-vie belong to a 'terroir', that of Gascony in the South West of France, and their notoriety relies on the traditional production methods carefully passed down through generations that makes each one of them original; an 'authors' eau-de-vie.

As an aperitif, pure or with ice, in cocktails, as an accompaniment to certain dishes, or as a digestive, Armagnac will seduce any palate. It is also wonderful for cooking and in dressings, sauces, name it.

Armagnac, unlike cognac, is made with a wine philosophy: vintages, varietals and retention of fruit. A wonderful drink, aged in local Monlezun or Troncais oak, and usually single distilled in a continious still to retain more fruit at a lower distilled alcoholic strength.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The WSET Diploma Sleepover 15 August 2010

1. Pommery Champagne NV Brut Rose
2. Sauvignon de Saint-Bris 2008
3. Marlborough Saint-Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2009
4. Lourensford South Africa Sauvignon Blanc 2009
5. Te Koko Cloudy Bay 2006
6. Soave Tamellini 2009
7. Evans and Tate Margaret River Chardonnay 2003
8. Schlumberger Alsace Grand Cru Pinot Gris 2005
9. Le Chevalier de Sterimberg Hermitage Blanc (Jaboulet) 2003
10. Gymnasium 2002 M-S-R Riesling Kabinett
11. Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2007
12. Massale Kooyong Pinot Noir 2008
13. Stift Kloster Neuburg St Laurent 2007
14. Chinon Domaine de la Colline 2009
15. Chateaux Gamage Bordeaux Superieur 2006
16. Dominio de Conte Rioja 2004
17. Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge 2001
18. Chianti Gentilesco 2009
19. d'Arenberg "The Barbara Says So" Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo 2001
20. Le Bossu Gigondas 2004
21. Speri Amorone Classico 2004
22. Gaiun Martinenga Barbaresco 1999
23. Chateau Lascombes 1999 Margaux
24. Vieux Chateau Cros Lamarzelle St-Emilion 2002
25. Terrunyo Carmanere 2005
26. Grahams 1977 Vintage Port
27. Lenz Moser Trockenbeerenauslese 2000

2 we never opened (don't ask me why!): Ayala 2002 Champagne and 1990 Deschamps Nuit-St-Georges. Wine 24 was opened and not touched. Tonight then!

Stand-out wines: 5,8,9,17,19,26,27. I need to try some more again!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

How about this for a cocktail?

I need a name for this one too:
1 shot Janneau 5
1 shot creme d'orange
1 shot creme de banane
1 generous shot of whipping cream
Shaken on ice, finished with cocoa powder with a little cinnamon.

I think this may actually be my favourite creation so far. Heaven. Absolute heaven. Don't drink it too quickly.

Name that cocktail!

I need a name for this utterly gorgeous cocktail:
1 shot Tesco VSOP (it's actually Montesquiou! - fab value at £17.49 for 70cl!)
1 shot Creme de Cacao
1 Shot Creme d'Orange
1 generous shot of whipping cream
Shaken on ice, and finished with cocoa powder with a little cinnamon

The Handsome Stranger

Thanks to Sarah Townley for naming this cocktail: "deceptively alcoholic....smooth at first but has its way with you eventually". So what's in it?
1 shot Janneau 5 year old Armagnac
1 shot Amaretto
1 shot white port
1 shot boiled and chilled finest chinese green tea
1 teaspoon runny honey
1/2 slice lime
Stirred, not shaken, on ice. Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Baron de Pibrac: Sigognac at Oddbins!

On the 29th April I spent three hours in the late afternoon with Thomas Guasch of Baron de Signognac/Chateau Bordeneuve. A humble genius. It was a privilege. You can see his new planting of 4ha of Ugni Blanc here and his continuous still. He is in charge of everything - from planting to vinification to distilling and ageing. He only uses local Gascon oak. Half an hour before I arrived, I had tasted a complex blend of some of the best vintages between 1865 and 1974. Then, up first at Sigognac, was Thomas' VS. It really hit the spot for me. Wonderfully fresh, aromas and flavours of orange, apricot, honey and peach. Very smooth and very good length. 1/3 Baco Blanc and 2/3 Ugni Blanc. 3 years in oak. As I walked through the bottling operation I saw a palate of Baron de Pibrac - exclusive to Oddbins (I used to sell it to cognac-wanting customers at Christmas! I couldn't possibly sell them a cognac when I had something much superior to offer: Pibrac). He told me it was the same product as the Sigognac VS. Oddbins are selling this for £16.99 for 70cl. It has to be one of the best grape spirit bargains to be had in the UK. A must-have. Available from Oddbins stores or have it delivered at Even with £5.99 delivery, it is still a bargain.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Bernard's tour of the Chateau de Laubade Paradis

28/04/10/ Around 3pm. The Paradis at Chateau de Laubade. Cellar-master, Bernard (genius), shows Amanda Garnham, her daughter Georgina and myself the Treasures. They are all coded so we can't tell what's what. But he knows. Beautiful. And after Bernard telling Amanda that he thought I was a very good taster, this man made my day!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Best Chantilly Cream - Ever!

Whip 300ml of whipping cream until just beginning to stiffen.
Add 5ml (1tsp) caster sugar.
Add 25ml VSOP Armagnac.
Whip until you get a nice thick consistency and you are done.

Serve a dollop (heaped tablespoon) with a slice of your favourite cake.  This goes superbly with my ginger cake, but you'll have to wait for the recipe for that!