Seen the grapes growing

An old Gascon proverb says that Armagnac must be matured in barrels made of oak that has “seen the grapes growing” – in other words, wood that has seen the seasons pass. This is why you can see stacks of stave wood stored in the open air all over Gascony.

The maturation process, which is also called lessivage, serves to remove potential toxins from the wood that would otherwise give the Armagnac a note of bitterness. The best results are achieved with wood that has been subjected to the elements for at least 24 months. The local oak (Quercus pedunculata) has wide grains, especially when it receives a medium to heavy toast that imparts a dark colour to the spirit.

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