Every 700 or so years the folks from Gascony like to get together and celebrate one of the unique things that separates their region from all the others in France. That thing is Armagnac, the oldest distilled brandy in France. This Septicentennial celebration is taking place throughout 2010 in four of the world's major cities; London, Chicago, Moscow and Paris. This past week was Chicago's turn to celebrate and share information about one of the world's oldest and finest spirits. Events started on Thursday June 10th at the South Loop location of Binnys, Chicago's largest retail liquor chain. Brett Pontoni, Binny's Specialty Spirits Buyer was on hand hosting two guest speakers for a seminar on Armagnac. Heavenly Spirits' Christine Cooney and Jerome Delord of the Delord Armagnac house talked about the history and science of Armagnac and shared stories about the Delord family distillery.
On Friday, the Armagnac celebration joined forces with the World Wine Meeting Convention held at the Downtown Chicago Embassy Suites. Events of the day included Armagnac Ambassador May Matta-Aliah conducting a seminar on the subject of Armagnac to a standing room only crowd, a walk-around tasting of wines from all over France, a formal dinner and knighting ceremony. The walk-around tasting included a separate room devoted to Armagnac, representing ten of the top Armagnac producers and over sixty distinct Armagnac products.
The day was capped with a Gascony inspired dinner attended by over 350 wine and spirit devotees. The menu included Foie Gras, Smoked Duck, Confit de Canard, fingerling potatoes, a plate of French Cheeses served with Fig Chutney, and finally a Galette de Pommes. Each person attending found a souvenir French beret on their seat with the Armagnac logo embroidered on the front.
Following the dinner, four individuals were formally knighted into the Armagnac Brotherhood Compagnie des Mousquetaires and presented with sashes, medals and diplomas for their long standing support in representing the quality and history of the Armagnac region and spirit. Two of these inductees were nominated by Heavenly Spirits; Brett Pontoni, the Specialty Spirits Buyer for Binnys and David Soto, Former Spirits Buyer for Sam's and now with Binnys. Both men have done an amazing job in educating their clients and promoting the virtues of Armagnac. For that, we salute them as we recognize their professional dedication, passion, and success.
As the leading importers and promoters of Armagnac in the USA, Christine and I were pleased to be part of such a notable and historic event. We were also pleasantly surprised to see so many industry associates and friends in attendance, for example: Lou Bock, our CA distributor, Ed Hamilton, the Minister of Rum, and Jerald O'Kennard of the BTI in Chicago. And, we should not fail to mention the pleasure we had in sharing the event with some of those great and personable Binny wine & spirit consultants like Joe Maloney and Gregory Fulham. In conclusion, I'd just like to wish Armagnac another 700 years equally as fruitful as the first. Cheers!