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Armagnac seeks sales boost

MAKERS hope a pilgrimage to the Vatican to retrieve a 14th-Century text extolling virtues of the drink will help sales

MAKERS of armagnac hope a pilgrimage to the Vatican to retrieve a 14th-Century text extolling the virtues of the drink will help flagging sales.

France’s oldest spirit celebrates its 700th anniversary this year but sales have dipped because of changing tastes and increased taxes.

Makers are placing their faith in a text entitled Very Useful Book for Conserving One's Health and Staying on Top Form in which the Prior of Eauze (situated in Gascony) Vital Dufour lists the 40 virtues of the drink.

The text, written in 1310, has been kept in the Vatican library since 1531. A special service at the Vatican will honour the text, considered the armagnac ‘bible’ and makers will bring back a copy.

Dufour wrote: "This water, if taken medically and soberly is said to have 40 virtues.

"It enlivens the spirit, if taken in moderation, recalls the past to memory, renders men joyous, preserves youth and delays senility."

He warned, however, that it also "loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit."

The Gascon spirit is also claimed to cure gout, headaches and reawaken limbs.

Traditionally sold to an older generation of aficionados, makers want to target a younger market of "mature" 35-50 year olds.

Producers want to replicate the success of whisky which has become an all-round drink rather than just a digestif although they are stopping short of offering it in bars.

They argue that it goes with all foods: roquefort cheese, salmon, foie gras and even caviar. Sales at the moment are around six million bottles a year, lagging behind its younger cousin cognac which developed in the 16th Century.

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