Thursday, February 11, 2010

Armagnac II - In the heart of Bas Armagnac

Square Labastide d'Armagnac

Here in the Landes region you don't drink whisky or cognac, you drink Armagnac as a digestive after dinner. Armagnac is the oldest eau de vie made in France and has been produced since medieval times. To make Armagnac you need white wine, a column still for the distillation and lots of patience - because most of them are stored for over ten years!

The Armagnac region stretches over three regions, Landes, Gers and Lot-et-Garonne. Within three areas exist, Bas Armagnac, Ténarèze and Haut Armagnac. It is commonly acknowledged that the finest Armagnac comes from the area Bas Armagnac in Landes.

But I'm not finished yet. Within the Bas Armagnac area there is still one more area to consider, the Grand Bas Armagnac, or the golden triangle, which is considered the very best area to make an excellent Armagnac. So that's the place we went to in order to visit an Armagnac producing farm.

On the way we visited the medieval village Labastide d'Armagnac. It seemed surprisingly quiet and free from tourists and cheap souvenirs. When Aliénor d'Aquitaine got married with Henri Plantagenet, Gascogne came under English power and in 1291 Labastide d'Armagnac was founded by the count of Armagnac Bernard VI. The place is very typical with its square format and the covered arcades. The legend says it inspired Henri IV to create the well known square place des Vosges in Paris.

After our Armagnac tasting at Ferme de Labouc - I'll tell you about that in the next post -  we took a quick look at Saint Justin, five kilometres further on, another lovely medieval village. We tried the Hôtel de France restaurant and had a fantastic lunch for 13 euros. Very animated, you could see it was a place with lots of people from the neighbourhood - always a sure sign you have found a good place.

Front restaurant Hôtel de France





Front detail in Saint Justin

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