• Shelley Boettcher

Spending time with renowned Armagnac producer

Photo: Armagnac Castarede

We Calgarians are lucky in that we often have some of the best winemakers in the world come through town.

But Armagnac producers seldom visit, which is why a recent tasting with Florence Castarede from Armagnac Castarede was so special.

In 1832, her family became France’s first Armagnac house to be registered for trading. Almost 200 years later, it is still family-owned.

The XO, 1986 and 1996 releases are currently in the market, and we will also soon see limited amounts of the 1977, 1987 and 1997 releases here, too. Stand it up to store it, she says, and try it with a variety of simple foods: smoked salmon, dried fruit, unsalted almonds or cashews. Not coffee, Castarede notes. “It is always interesting to propose it with dessert and as a digestif.”

Considering the age of these bottles, they’re a steal of a deal compared to other comparable products in the market. “We’re doing our best to make an artisanal craft product,” she says. “Every day, I have some Armagnac.”

But she refuses to pick her favourite. Choosing just one would be like pointing out her favourite baby, she says. “I cannot like one more than another.”

Armagnac Castarede, 1986

(Armagnac, France)

Just one of the outstanding Armagnacs from Castarede, the 1986 is very smooth with notes of vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon and orange. I tripled starred this one in my notes during the tasting, and put a big note in the margin that reads “must buy.” About $118 a bottle.