Friday, March 22, 2013

Some Old Armagnac

In the days before Christmas some old Armagnacs came into the store. The producer was Chateau du Busca from the Tenareze region of Armagnac. The history of the estate goes back to the 16th centery, the family was enobled in the 17th and Armagnac production goes back a long ways. We had some of the vintage products a few years ago. During a staff tasting with Alain Royer, who assembled the released products I remember describing the 1985 as a dreamsicle, with its strong vanilla and burnt orange peel characteristics. Comparing notes with my colleague, he noted the vanilla and orange in more proper technical terms. A few months later, in a tasting with the Countess from the estate, she described the same vintage as having definite vanilla and orange highlights. (Sometimes we get these things right!)
The 1985 was not among the vintages we received, but we did get 1979 and 1982 which just happen to be the birth years of my sons. Opportunities for birth year vintages are rare and even more rarely affordable, so I indulged in a couple of bottles for Christmas presents. After a family dinner at my son's house in Santa Fe on a cold January night, we had the opportunity to taste.

The 1979 was like slipping into an old jewelry box, with patinaed satin and rich warm wood. Musty orange and dried fruits and flowers danced in the warm richness of the distillate. Flavors were deep and long and rich.

The 1982 followed with a slap to the face. Christmas spice and fruit cake laced with candied fruit in the warm molasses cake lingered long on the palate. The '82 was as open and joyous as the '79 was elegant and reserved.

As I contemplated the remarkable difference between the two, I remembered that '82 was famous for the benchmark quality of the Bordeaux vintage. It was the year that made the young Robert Parker into a superstar wine critic.And that is what separates great Armagnacs from great Cognacs. Great Cognacs are blended while great Armagnacs change with the vintage.

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