Armagnac is the oldest wine-based eu-de-vie (brandy), produced in the southwest of France, with more than 700 years of history. Unlike cognac, Armagnac is not the name of the city. Armagnac refers to a sovereign family that ruled the county of the same name for five centuries. In the XV. century The family reached the peak of its greatness by supporting French King Charles VII against the English and Burgundians.
Armagnac made a captivating appearance at this year’s BCB. Ms. Florence Castarède, owner of the Armagnac Castarède cellars, presents Armagnac in a new light.
I have a lot of responsibilities, of course, because I’ve got to oversee the works in the vineyards. I am not a specialist, but I need to decide upon the renewal of the production management, confer with my cellar master, follow up on the vineyard work programs, renovate the estate. Yet, my main responsibility is to promote and sell my Armagnac everywhere.
About four years ago I started to collaborate with an importer in Croatia; it is hard work, especially when you’re not well known, but I hope that step by step, Armagnac will gain popularity in your Country, because for me Armagnac is one of the best spirits in the world.
I represent the sixth generation of this family. The House was founded in 1832 and we are the oldest House of Armagnac in France, hence in the world, because you can only do Armagnac in France, which is what we call “Appellation d’origine contrôlée”.
I am doing the best I can to offer the customer what I call “the style of Castarède” – which is smooth, elegant, well balanced, perfumed. Every day, it’s my perfume: for a few minutes, you can take your time to smell and taste the magic of the “way of life”.
There are a lot of reasons. First of all, the geographic reason, as we are completely far from any port. In the past, the port was very important. Second, we don’t have the commercial spirit of promoting and selling, I don’t know why. Perhaps we are not very open-minded.
England and Ireland helped a lot in developing the Cognac area. All the biggest families come from foreigners, mainly from the English and the Irish. These people are keen on promoting and selling their product; in contrast, we like to keep things for ourselves, and this is a big problem. Also, there are no big companies; we have small producers, small companies, so we don’t have a suitable budget for marketing or advertising, hence there aren’t any big commercial groups in the County of Armagnac.
The rules set by the “Appellation d’origine contrôlée” are more rigorous and strict. For example, you are not allowed to have large quantities in your vineyards.
There is a new law now with the 10 years old “XO”. Also, because “XO” means Extra Old, I intend to promote old Armagnac. The blend is 25 years old, and I think putting a 20 to 30 years old Armagnac is a good step towards really appreciating all the perfumes and the complexity of the product, which is not the case if it’s only 10 years old.
His name is Michel. He’s been with us for two years. Previously, we’ve got a cellar master for 25 years, but he had to retire. We continue to collaborate, but now we’ve got a new master of cellar. That is why I also need to see what he likes, and hopefully we have the same sensibility of taste.
We taste a lot of things together. Sometimes he makes a blend, then I say: “No Michel, I would like to have more fruitiness…”, or more something… We created this new blend for the cigar lovers, which is 25 years old, 44°. I tasted around 10 different samples to create this blend.
Sometimes I am not very positive, because of high competition, the Armagnac appellation, etc. At the moment, I don’t see a lot of improvement.
We are keeping an open mind. That’s why we created a new range for the mixologist and the bartenders; we designed special labels, shapes and taste. I do my best, but it’s hard to follow customers individually, enabling them to taste the product. It’s when they taste it, they’re so happy, they discover a magic product. That’s why we established a show room in Paris, in Boulevard Haussmann, where every day we welcome whoever likes to try the Armagnac, both those who know it already and those who don’t.
I hope so too and thanks a lot too!