Continuing our discovery of the finest Armagnac houses, Domaine Tariquet and Domaine d’Espérance offer excellent value drinks but without sacrificing quality and flavour.
Armagnac Houses: Domaine Tariquet
When the Domaine Tariquet wine estate was purchased by the Artaud family in 1912, it was in a sorry state, with most of the vines having been destroyed by phylloxera, a pest which destroys the roots of the vines. All that remained was seven hectares of vineyard.
It wasn’t until the end of World War II and the marriage of Jean Pierre Artaud’s daughter Helene to returning soldier Pierre Grassa that Tariquet was given a new lease of life. With the chateau and the rest of the property restored to its former glory, the vineyards were once again producing Bas-Armagnac brandies.
Pierre and Helene had four children with two, Maite and Yves, choosing to remain on the property and continue the family tradition. In 1972 they joined forces with Pierre and Domaine Tariquet, working to promote and sell the Armagnac produced on the estate.
In 1982, they decided to expand production from the vineyards and started producing quality white wines – a pioneering step for the region.
Yves’ sons, Armin and Remy, continue the family legacy today, producing wines and Armagnacs on the 900-hectare estate. Domaine Tariquet is now one of France’s largest independent viticultural estates.
Domaine Tariquet Le Legendaire
The youngest of the brandies in this Bas-Armagnac blend was aged in oak barrels, in Tariquet’s cellars, for at least 13 years.
That ageing has produced an Armagnac with a sweet nose, full of fruit but topped with a little spice. Tariquet suggests full aeration to release the aromas from the drink, which promises to add some orange and must to the mix.
Oak flavours come through in the mouth, those barrels clearly giving their best over 13 years. That’s matched with fruit, perhaps figs and plums, with a sweet finish that lasts forever.
Domaine Tariquet XO
As the most financially accessible product on these pages, it’s a surprise to find that the youngest brandy in this blend has been aged for 15 years.
The blackened barrels have imbibed a crisp, burnt aroma to the drink, along the lines of toast or even just fresh baked bread with, as ever, that sweet fruit undertone.
On the palette, you’d assume the Armagnac was younger, such is the subtlety of the vanilla, oak and fruit flavours. It’s a smooth drink though, with plenty of depth and a wonderful finish that keeps that sweet toast flavour going for some time.
Armagnac Houses: Domaine d’Espérance
Located in the rolling hillsides of Bas-Armagnac, Domaine d’Esperance was purchased and restored by Jean-Louis and Claire de Montesquiou in 1990. The vineyard has now grown to 45 hectares, of which 16 are dedicated to Baco and Folle-Blanche grape varieties for Armagnac, with the rest going to wine grapes.
It aims to produce a limited quantity of extremely high-quality Armagnac, by scrupulously following time-honoured distilling and ageing methods.
The process is meticulously followed to ensure the end product is of the highest standard possible. Grapes are harvested very early in the morning and the distilling process happens at low temperatures to retain the rich flavour. The Armagnac is then aged in new oak barrels on the premises, with 20 to 30 barrels per year ageing in the cellars.
There are several vintages available from Domaine d’Esperance, from five to 20 years old. Since 2000, it has also offered Folle-Blanche, of which the 2002 vintage won the gold medal at the Agricultural Show of Paris in 2020, and that’s what CALIBRE sampled.
Folle Blanche 2002
This honey-coloured Armagnac has a golden sheen that invites you to open the bottle, revealing a nose that’s got a fruity and floral bouquet. There’s some sweet fruit in there, such as plum and orange, with a hint of sugar and the warmth of vanilla. The tasting notes suggest hazelnut, too.
Tasting it revealed furth complexity, with an unexpected hit of chocolate and vanilla, with a full, soft and almost velvety out feel. Dried fruit comes forward, mixing with the vanilla to create a pleasing flavour that lingers for a long time, giving way to chocolate once more.