The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 51 of 120

{ }  51 and good balance between alcohol and aromas." He and his brother launched Tariquet in 1999—a mere baby compared to other houses—and aim to produce elegant, unaggressive Armagnacs with natural color and light toast. The overall market for Armagnac has changed in three crucial ways, according to Jérôme Delord, Head Director and Sales Manager for Château Delord. Old vintages are nearly out of stock at some houses (meaning that blends are comprised of newer brandies); China and Russia have evolved into major export markets; and Armagnac is no longer viewed as a "cheaper alternative" to Cognac, but as a highly covetable option in its own right. "Armagnac will be drunk because of the quality of the product, not because it is vintage or cheaper than Cognac," predicts Delord. But, as total production for Armagnac rests around seven to eight million cases, Delord admits it's more of a "niche" than a major market player. However, today's generation of producers is expanding its portfolio, creating products that have opened up the category, including Blanche d'Armagnac, a new category of unaged Armagnac that is finding a place in cocktails. "In the last three to five years, the trend for premium cocktails has had a positive impact on Armagnac," notes Lesgourgues. "Bartenders, mixologists and sommeliers regard the product with lots of respect because it's traditional, full of history and a long heritage." Benoit Hillion, Director of Armagnac Dartigalongue & Fils, has witnessed a change during the past few years in Armagnac's overarching style. "The industry produces Armagnacs without an excess of tannins, keeping the fruitiness of the distilled wine." As promotional budgets are strained, he believes pro - ducers need to market Armagnac. "We can simply promote different ways of consuming Armagnac: pure, on the rocks, with tonic, in cocktails and with dessert." Hillion points out that since Armagnac's heyday (post-World War II and before 1990) was followed by a time where sales sharply decreased, the current generation of producers has had to rely on what they've gleaned from relatives and books, rather than first-hand. "We are more positive and are still look - ing to improve the process, to understand better what the customer likes, to think about the packaging, etc." It's traditional for Gascons to offer bottles of a recipient's birth vintage to friends and family members celebrating birthdays—and fun to taste how those vintages are hold - ing up. As more brandy lovers are becoming exposed to Armagnacs of all ages and styles, Lesgourgues speculates that Armagnac sales will continue to grow in the U.S., especially on the on-premise market, and in cities in the Northeast, the West Coast, Chicago and Florida. For his part, Hillion believes more tastings and events in the United States will increasingly open up the category. As he puts it, "Armagnac takes time to age, and the markets take time to be developed." PHOTO COURTESY OF CHÂTEAU DU TARIQUET Armin Grassa launched Château du Tariquet with his brother Rémy in 1999. Armagnac Dartigalongue has been producing Armagnac since 1838. (right) Château du Tariquet X.O. is a contemporary expres- sion of Armagnac.

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