Discoveries in Food and Wine

War Time Armagnac

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Although the wine cellar is always the first reason to take a trip to Bern’s Steak house, the upstairs dessert room makes a strong argument for the second reason.  In addition to the private dessert cabins and tasty sweets, the cellar features a selection of spirits unlike any others.  When I’m not driving home, I choose to drink dessert because—just like with the wine cellar—there are simply choices here that we can’t find elsewhere.  And while I love Cognac, I love Armagnac even more.  I find it richer and less cloying, deeper and more complex.

Seamus and I decided to try two different vintages just a few years apart (1941 and 1944) from the same producer (La Grindiniere).  We were somewhat surprised with how different they were.

The nose of the 1941 was darker and moodier, almost reminiscent of a kirsch.  The alcohol showed through it a touch more.  The 1944 had more honeyed and herbal notes, with the fruit being rounder in contrast with the sharper notes from the 1941.  We smelled them for about 10 minutes before taking first sips.  While our preference on the nose was the ’44, the ’41 was better on the palate.  In an unusual twist, the taste of the ’41 was what we would have expected from the ’44.  The fruit and alcohol were well-integrated, and the sweet notes shone through.  The ’41 was simply headier and required a bit more thought than the ’44.  Both were delicious and well worth the price.  I would certainly revisit either again, although I suspect my choice next time will involve another one I haven’t tried from Bern’s remarkable list.

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