Vinification is the process that transforms the grapes into wine. The process of vinification differ from region to region, financial state of the winery and the grape types. The harvesting time and the type of oak used for aging are based on the region in which the wine grapes are grown.

Wine making process involves the following stages:

  • The first step in wine making process is Harvesting or Picking. Grapes should be harvested at the right time in order to make good wine. Harvesting can be done either mechanically or by hand.
  • The process of separating the grapes from the stems and cluster parts is called Destemming. Some of the wine makers keep some fragments of the stem to increase the wine tannin.
  • After destemming the grapes are crushed to extract the juice from the skin. This is done before the fermentation process begins. In the olden days bare feet is used to extract the grape juice, now a day machines like crushers are used.
  • Separation of grape juice and the skin is named as pressing. After crushing the grape juice will flow freely, selected wineries use pressers to make sure maximum juice is released.
  • Once the grapes are pressed they are introduced into the process of fermentation. During this process the grape juice are converted into alcoholic beverage. The yeast interacts with the sugar in the grape juice and converts them into ethanol and carbon dioxide.
  • Once the wine is purified and refined, they are preserved with sulfur dioxide or potassium sorbate. During the natural process of fermentation a minimum amount of sulfites are produced, but more is added for the use of commercial preservation.
  • Wines are aged for a particular amount of time to get more welcoming wine. Once after purification, the wines are moved to wooden barrels for aging. Metal vats, concrete vats and glass carboys are also used in some cases to increase the flavor.
  • After aging, the wines are bottled. During the process of bottling a final dose of sulfite is added to the wine to prevent it from uninvited fermentation in the bottle. The bottles are then sealed with cork and screw caps.

Cognac Armagnac Difference
Cognac Armagnac Difference

How do you tell Armagnac apart from Cognac?

The post What's the difference between Cognac and Armagnac? Ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.


Cognac Armagnac Difference
Cognac Armagnac Difference

How do you tell Armagnac apart from Cognac?

The post What's the difference between Cognac and Armagnac? Ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.

Cognac Armagnac Difference
Cognac Armagnac Difference

The Gascon countryside is quintessential rural France: picture-postcard landscapes, bastide villages and a sleepy atmosphere. Unlike the monoculture of the Médoc or the Côte d’Or, vines here compete for space with sunflowers, maize and cattle.

This is the home of Armagnac, France’s oldest distilled spirit. Reflecting the countryside it calls home, Armagnac is a drink of great variety and nuance – arguably more so than its more celebrated rival, Cognac.

Lying to the north of the Armagnac region, the Cognac region stretches from just above Bordeaux to as far north as La Rochelle, and eastwards from the Atlantic to beyond Angoulême. So what, apart from origin, differentiates them?

Cognac vineyards

Vineyards in the Cognac region

Cognac: the region

There are about 78,000ha of vineyards in Cognac, split into six zones or crus:

Grande Champagne: The most prized, with deep, crumbly chalk soils and located to the south of the Charente river. Produces floral, fine-toned eaux-de-vie that benefit from long ageing.

Petite Champagne: Surrounding Grande Champagne, with less-crumbly chalk soils and a more oceanic climate. Produces floral, lightly fruity Cognacs.

Borderies: A small enclave north of the Charente. It has less chalk, producing aromatic but faster-ageing Cognacs.
Fins Bois: The largest cru, Fins Bois surrounds the first three, and has mostly thin clay/limestone soils. Produces fruity, faster-maturing Cognacs.

Bons Bois: A varied cru surrounding Fins Bois, with a number of different soil and climate types.

Bois Ordinaires/Bois à Terroirs: Covering the Atlantic coast and the Ile d’Oléron and Ile de Ré. Unsurprisingly, it has a strong oceanic influence.

Armagnac: the region

Much smaller than Cognac, there are 15,000ha of vines planted in the IGP Côtes de Gascogne and PDO Floc de Gascogne, of which around 4,200ha are identified exclusively for Armagnac production. The region is split into three zones:

Bas-Armagnac: Located to the west, this area was once under the Atlantic Ocean. When the waters receded to the Bay of Biscay, they left behind tawny sands and boulbènes – a sand/silt mix – with a high iron content from the nearby Pyrenees. This soil makes Bas-Armagnac the heart of the region, source of the finest and longest-lived brandies, of fruitiness, structure and delicacy.

Ténarèze: Lying to the east, soils here are a mixed bag of chalk-clay plus some boulbènes. Armagnacs made here tend to be rounder and richer, but still express their finest qualities only after decades of ageing.

Haut-Armagnac: An L-shaped territory embracing Bas-Armagnac and Ténarèze to the east and south. Chalky soils, highly prized in the Grande Champagne part of Cognac, are less sought-after here, with only a few vineyards scattered throughout the area.

Cognac grapes

Cognac grapes

Although there are six permitted grape varieties in Cognac, one is certainly the star performer. Ugni Blanc covers 98% of Cognac’s vineyards and is prized for its resistance to disease, its high acidity and low sugar levels. It produces a light, neutral and acidic wine (typically 8%-9% abv), that is ideally suited to distillation and ageing.

Folle Blanche was historically Cognac’s dominant variety, but it has fallen from favour because of its sensitivity to rot when grafted. It now covers less than 1% of the vineyard, producing aromatic and well-balanced Cognacs.

A new cross of Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche, Folignan has an aromatic character. It can only make up 10% of a Cognac blend. The other varieties – Colombard, Montils and Sémillon – are insignificant.

Armagnac grapes

When it comes to grapes, the contrast between Cognac and Armagnac is even more evident. While Ugni Blanc accounts for practically the entirety of Cognac production, here it sits cheek-by-jowl with Folle Blanche, the wine grape Colombard, six little-planted curiosities – and the intriguing Baco.

Ugni Blanc is loved here for the same reason as in Cognac, producing wines with high acidity and low alcohol, ideally suited to distillation – giving Armagnacs of precision, fine fruit and smoothness.

The only hybrid grape permitted in a French AC, Baco is a crossing of Folle Blanche and the hybrid Noah. Created in 1898 by Landais schoolmaster François Baco, it was a post-phylloxera remedy when Folle Blanche had difficulty grafting onto resistant rootstocks. The maker of singularly unimpressive wine, Baco is transformed by the boulbènes soils of Bas-Armagnac into a spirit of unbridled power and complexity. Often hard work when young, Baco Armagnacs are softened by long ageing in barrel, sometimes spending decades in oak before they reach their peak of mellow complexity.

The contrast between Baco and Folle Blanche couldn’t be greater. Light and delicate, Folle Blanche is vulnerable to mildew and rot. But in the hands of a master it boasts a jasmine-scented nose with light spices and great finesse – the other end of the style spectrum from structured, four-square Baco.

Cognac ageing cellar with barrels

Cognac ageing cellar

How Cognac is made

Distillation must be completed by 31 March following the harvest, and comprises a small-batch, double distillation in a Charentais copper pot still. Some producers distil ‘on the lees’, including the dead yeast and pulp from the winemaking process, to give a more complex spirit character.

Cognac must be matured in oak barrels for at least two years prior to release, but is often aged for much longer. Many factors influence the character of the maturing eau-de-vie, including: oak origin (usually Tronçais or Limousin forests), age of barrel (younger casks give more flavour, but decades-old barrels have little or no influence beyond the processes of evaporation and micro-oxygenation) warehouse and barrel location.

Cognac cellar masters use a variety of cellar types – some drier, some more humid, some cooler and some warmer. Eaux-de-vie maturing in humid cellars lose more alcohol than water, while those ageing in drier cellars lose more water than alcohol. This influences spirit strength and style.

The vast majority of Cognacs are blends, composed by the cellar master from eaux-de-vie of various ages and origins to create a Cognac that is balanced, complex and consistent. Distilled water is added to dilute to the desired strength, which is usually 40% abv.

How Armagnac is made

The traditional method of Armagnac production, dating back nearly 200 years, uses a single still, the Armagnacais alambic. This allows a continuous distillation, in contrast to the batch-by-batch, double distillation practised in Cognac. But there are a few double stills in Armagnac too, after the practice was revived in the early 1970s.

To generalise, the eaux de vie made using the Cognac method are stronger (as they’re distilled twice) and, depending on your point of view, either finer or more straightforward – because only the middle part of the distillate, the heart, is used.

But it doesn’t follow that Armagnac is therefore more rustic or less refined, as much depends on the individual still used, and how it is run. Skilled distillation to a relatively low strength (about 55% alcohol) preserves fragrance and fruit, enhancing smoothness and complexity.

With a spirit that is often aged for decades, the barrels used for maturation are just as crucial as the distillation. For the first year or two, the eau de vie is aged in new barrels – typically 400 to 420 litres, of wider-grained, spicy Gascon oak, or tighter-grained, less influential Limousin oak – to mellow and achieve a peak of wood influence. Then the eau de vie is transferred into older, more neutral barrels for continued maturation, with the finest, longest-lived often moving into large glass dames-jeannes or bonbonnes after decades in wood.

Is Armagnac more distinctive and varied than Cognac? Certainly. Does that make it better? It depends what you like. Such comparisons are invidious, anyway. I’d say it was a case of horses for courses – if I didn’t think Cognac and Armagnac were different beasts altogether.


You might also like:

Cognac: Ageing gracefully

Best Cognacs under £50/$50

Best Cognacs under £100/$100

The post What's the difference between Cognac and Armagnac? Ask Decanter appeared first on Decanter.


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Each wine is unique. Soil, weather, geology, varietals, and the style of wine making, are all decisive yet variable factors that give each wine a unique character.
Each wine is unique. Soil, weather, geology, varietals, and the style of wine making, are all decisive yet variable factors that give each wine a unique character.
Winemakers all over the world are combining wine making traditions of millennia with innovative approaches and ideas, to address consumer demand for high quality products and a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
Winemakers all over the world are combining wine making traditions of millennia with innovative approaches and ideas, to address consumer demand for high quality products and a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.

Laurel Gray Vineyards

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