The small, pretty village of Labastide d’Armagnac (40 Landes , Nouvelle Aquitaine) is the venue for an annual Armagnac Festival (Armagnac en fête )in the Place Royale in Autumn – see Celebrating Armagnac
French brandies – both Armagnac and Cognac are “Appellation Controllee” which means that any product carrying the name has to come from a defined geographic area, and be made according to strict rules to ensure conformity and quality. For Armagnac this is an area on the Southwest of France mainly in the Gers and Gascony, between Bordeaux and the Landes forests and the Pyrenees. Cognac is made further north of Bordeaux around the Charentes river. The grape varieties used tend to be different, but the other distinguising feature of Armagnac is that it is produced using a single continuous still process. This tends to yield a spirit which is richer in aroma-containing impurities – it is after all the impurities which give a brandy character. Hence Armagnac tends to be more “fragrant” than Cognac, although Cognac will tend to be more elegant and cleaner in taste.
In truth it is difficult to claim that one is better than the other – they are different in style and I have favourites in both styles.
There is also a difference in the history. Cognac was largely developed by entrepreneurs – Hennessy (Irish), Courvoisier, Remy Martin, Martell for example – names which are big brands in themselves. In Armagnac however, production was and is a more rural artisan affair – small producers spread over quite a large geographical area – so there are few big brands of Armagnac.
In addition to many oppoerunities to taste and buy Armagnac there will be cookery demonstrations, all in the setting of a genuine medieval village.