ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

My brother-in-law bought me a 40-year-old bottle of Armagnac for my birthday. From all appearances, it seems to be a very nice (expensive) bottle. How do I drink Armagnac? At 40 proof, it’s obviously not quite like wine or Port.

—David V., Chapel Hill, N.C.

Dear David,

I agree Armagnac is not like a wine or Port—it’s most like a Cognac (both are spirits distilled from wine and aged in oak barrels). Or, if you’re unfamiliar with Cognac, think of a Scotch or Bourbon. How do you drink it? Small sips, my friend. Small sips.

Glasses designed for Armagnac are typically tapered at the top to trap their aromatics, like a brandy snifter or tulip-style Champagne glass (either of which can be used). Typically Armagnac is served neat, though I’ve seen some people take theirs with a splash of water. Swirl the glass around, like you would a glass of wine, but be careful about sticking your nose in the glass to take in the aromatics—that 40-proof alcohol can singe your nose hairs. Just bring your nose near the top of the glass and let the aromas waft up.

Take small sips of Armagnac and let it roll around your mouth a bit before swallowing. As the spirit hits your mouth, vapors will start bouncing around your retronasal passages. Sometimes the instinct is to tense up or try to hold your breath after taking a sip of a strong spirit—just relax, and after you swallow, inhale to appreciate the finish.

You might find Armagnac most enjoyable alongside a glass of water or coffee, or with a cigar or some dessert. With a 40-year-old bottle, I expect you’d get some rich, robust flavors of smoke, nuts, dried fruit, and butterscotch or caramel. Once the bottle is open, it should keep for several months. Enjoy!

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories