If you’re looking for a luxury brandy, you should look no further than Cognac or Armagnac. But which one? To help you select the right fine brandy, Ideal Wine Company takes the Cognac vs Armagnac question and explores the similarities and differences between these two popular, reputable products.
Cognac and Armagnac are French white wine brandies, which are both made from famously undrinkable wine and distilled. Both Cognac and Armagnac have appellation d’origine contrôlée status. Therefore only drinks which are made via specific production processes can be called Cognacs or Armagnacs. This is where the similarities end.
Grapes and distillation
Vinepair notes that while both Cognac and Armagnac are made from “thin” wine, they use different grapes. Traditionally, Cognacs are solely produced from the Ugni Blanc grape. Armagnacs are made from a wider selection of grapes, specifically Baco Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche. As you can see from the map (left) Cignac is near the West Coast of France, whereas the Armagnac region is South of Bordeaux.
In Cognac and Armagnac production, grape juice is turned into thin wine and distilled, but the processes differ. Cognac producers distill their products in pots for two years, while Armagnac producers only distill their products for one year via a column still, producing a less alcoholic brandy.
You can learn the age of Cognac of Armagnac by looking at a letter code on the bottle. This is the industry’s age classification system, which runs from VS (very special), the status which both brandies must reach before they can be sold, to XO (extra old). Because of its lower alcohol content, Armagnacs only need to be aged for a year to reach VS status, while Cognacs are aged for two years minimum.
Like wines, Cognacs and Armagnacs are stored in oak barrels during the aging process, while both are also sold either as blends or vintages. Traditionally, Cognacs are placed in Limousin and Tronçais oak barrels for aging. Meanwhile Armagnacs can are also typically aged in Gascon, as well as Limousin and Tronçais oak barrels, meaning that these brandies often boast more varied flavours than Cognacs.
Due to varieties in grapes, distillation, aging and storage, Cognacs can taste very different to Armagnacs. While Armagnacs often boast subtle hints, with Cognacs you’ll often notice stronger flavours. Does Cognac sound like the right brandy for you? Browse Ideal Wine Company’s Cognac list, to find products from reputable companies such as Delamain, Remy Martin and Claude Thorin.