Cognac is a premium wine grape brandy produced in the region of Cognac in the south-west of France, near Bordeaux. The beautiful appellation(Cognac AOP), which spans over 80 hectares along the Clarence River, has a soft tempered sea climate, rich clay soil, and sufficient sunlight make the place favor the cultivation of vines. The cognac region is divided into six distinct viticultural areas. Each region produces different varieties of Eaux-de-vie. Blending different qualities give each Cognac a unique, individual character.
Surprisingly, it was Dutch who introduced Cognac. The Dutch settlers came to the Southwest region of France to buy wood, salt, and wine. It was the quality of the wine mixed with weak alcohol that made it difficult for it to survive long sea expedition. The issue was resolved with settling up of distilleries by the Dutch.
The Transformation Into Eau-de-vie
The process of double distillation began in the 17th century. It transformed the wines into eau-de-vie. The process is useful as it allows safe transportation and is economical too.
It was the People of Cognac who found that ageing in the oak barrels improved eau-de-vie. The drink was immediately ready for consumption. It gave birth to Cognac.
Now Cognac-makers open their cellar doors to tell you their story and know-how handed down from generation to generation.
Better Organized Led to Exports
The 18th century saw better organization in the Cognac business. More number of cognac trading houses were set up. The main aim of these was to export Cognac to other main markets, including England, Holland, Northern Europe. Later, to America and the Far East.
Production of Cognac Region
The Charentes or the Cognac is a major wine-growing region. However, the main product is not a normal wine. Even though Cognac got huge territory and produces more wine than Burgundy, most of the wines are distilled into the brandy.
The remaining production is a delicious aperitif wine, and it is called as Pineau des Charentes that you can taste in the wineryJules Gautret. The small quantity of barrels produced is labelled as Vin de Pays whereas some vineyards are also known for producing red or rose wine.
Focus On The Appellation
Depending on the variation in soil and climate, Cognac is divided into 6 sub-regions. Four of them are situated towards the centre include:
while the two remaining surround them:
The beautiful hilly region of Grande Champagne is well known for its Cognac. Mainly centred on the town of Segonac, it spreads towards the east and north.
Grande Champagne is regarded as ‘premier cru’ growth area. The soil of the place is responsible for producing Cognac of finest quality – light, floral, and with a long ageing period for maturity.
Towards the south end of Grand Champagne and spreading west of Segonac is Petite Champagne. It is located in the departments of Clarente-Maritime and Clarente is Petite Champagne.
The grapes of this cru produce Eaux-de-vie, which is light with a floral bouquet. They too take a long maturation time.
After Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne is considered to be the second most important region (cru). Their cognacs are of slightly lower quality than of the Grande Champagne.
Situated above the two champagne crus and towards the north of the town of Cognac, Borderies is the smallest of all the terroirs.
The region boasts of having the oldest soil in the region presumed to be of the Jurassic area. Palaeontologists have a huge interest in the region with 2000 fossilized remains found here of crocodiles, dinosaurs, and pterosaurs. It is believed that Borderies matures more gracefully than the other two.
The terroir is famous for producing rounded Eaux-de-vie aroma of toffee, nutty and violet flavours.
Fins Bois means ‘fine woods’ as most of the area was wooded when the vines were planted.
The grapes of this region produce Eaux-de-vie of the highest quality; these are supple, round, and have an aroma of a freshly squeezed fruit.
The other two appellations include Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaires. Cognac produced here is of lesser quality and not bought by any big houses.
Some estates cover vineyards in several regions, as Bourgoin Cognacwhich is present in 3 areas: Premiers Bois, Petite Champagne, and Fins Bois.
Where to Taste the Best Cognac
The best way to learn more about Cognac production is to visit Wineries in Cognac, where you will be able to listen to personal stories and taste the best spirit in the world!
Cognac old town is the medieval part of the town. It has narrow streets along beautiful homes built between 15th and the 18th century.
While exploring Cognac old town, you will move around the Chateau and the river, south of the ‘old gateway’ and witness the beauty of Rue Grande, Rue Magdeleine and Rue Saulnier.
The old town has some world-famous distilleries. you can visit them and relish Cognac!
Cognac ‘New Town’
The east end of Cognac is like any other modern French town having several shops, cafes and other activities buzzing. The atmosphere is lively. People can visit public gardens situated right in the centre of Cognac.
Some of the nearby cities of Cognac include Javrezac, Chateaubernard, Saint-Brice, Boutiers-Saint-Trojan, Merpins, Cherves-Richemont, Nercillac and Saint-Laurent-de-Cognac.
The Culinary Specialists of Cognac Region
Drinking and eating are essential for the people in Cognac. The region offers food choice in plenty for people to supplement the finest Cognac’s produced here.
Crème Brulée dessert, which is also known by the names of Trinity cream or burnt creama, is usually served chilled.
The rich custard base of Crème Brulée is topped with a layer of caramelized sugar. It is the caramelizing process that warms the custard and produces a cool centre. People usually love vanilla flavour; however, there are other varieties too.
Tarte Tatin is a pastry with fruits caramelized in butter and sugar before baking the tart.
It was served as a signature dish at Hotel Tatin and received its name from it. Though there are several stories about the origin of the dish, the most accepted one is of Stephanie Tatin.
One day she was tired and forgot apples cooking in sugar and butter. The burning smell caught her nostrils. She then tried to rescue the dish by adding pastry base on the pan of apples and finished it by putting it in the oven giving birth to Tarte Tatin.
One of the favourite sea products of French people.
In Cognac, one can relish the delicious recipe – Scallops L’Orange. It is a tweak on the traditional method of cooking scallop. In this recipe, sautéed shallots are laced with Grand Marnier sauce, and a small amount of crème Fraiche is poured on the searing scallops.
It is a classic recipe that people love to combine with Cognac.
It has all the flavours of the region – shallots, tomatoes, fennel, olives, garlic, and fresh sage. The seasoned fish is served with a pan sauce on rice or couscous. A lot of people like to eat lemon tart to finish this meal.
Cognac Bertrand proposes a Cognac tasting and food pairing. This is a chance to try traditional food!
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Map of Wineries in Cognac wine region
Discover the long wine tradition of Cognac and discover some of the best wineries in this region
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