Located just along the Charente river is the historic town of Cognac. With many art museums and gothic architecture buildings adorning the old town squares of the city, Cognac is quite the cultural hub in the Aquitaine region of France.
But the thing that has made Cognac famous around the world, is the namesake spirit that is unique to this region. As the town of Cognac is situated just 100 kilometers away from one the most important wine-making regions of the world – Bordeaux, it couldn’t have shied away from the region’s traditional practice of growing and harvesting fine grapes. But unlike its Southern cousin, the region of Cognac converts their produce into an eaux-de-vie through distillation, which is then carefully crafted to create one of the most sought-after brandies in the world.
Cognac, in very rough terms is a grape-spirit. All the grapes harvested in the making of this spirit must come from the stipulated regions in and around Cognac. These grapes need to be of a specific variety as well and the wine-making and distilling process in this region also have a list of rules that needs to be followed religiously. But what makes Cognac truly bespoke is the way the spirit is aged, matured and blended. Special Limousin oak barrels from the French forests are used to gently oxidize the eaux-de-vie for a dedicated amount of time. This time dictates the quality and category of the Cognac.
Careful blending sessions under the expertise of some of the most renowned maître de chai results in the formation of the VS (very special) blend - a blend with the youngest eaux-de-vie being aged for a minimum of 2 years, VSOP(very superior old pale) - a blend with the youngest being aged for a minimum of 4 years and XO(extra old) – a blend with the youngest being aged for a minimum of 6 years or more! These are some of the standard blends, but a lot of Cognac houses choose to create their own unique and exclusive blends which sometimes have aged for decades in their cellars.
To delve deeper in exploring this regal spirit, one must discover the many tours and tastings that the Cognac houses offer. Two of the biggest Cognac houses in this region are Remy Martin and Hennessy. Though these houses are barely a few miles away from each other, their working and wine-making styles are absolutely different.
Just one step into the Cognac House of Remy Martin will remind you of the rich culture and heritage that this region is steeped in. With old architecture and tastefully decorated imperial tasting rooms, the place reeks the essence of its signature product, the awe-striking and exquisite Louis XIII Cognac. The wine tour in this Maison de Cognac will take you through private tastings paired with amuse-bouche straight from the brilliant Chefs of the house. The philosophy of this house is deeply rooted in the terroir of the region which makes itself evident in all its products. Their confidence in this terroir has led them to create a unique product that Maison Remy Martin prides itself on. They call it the Fine Champagne (Champagne, here, describes the chalky soil). They believe that by using grapes from only the prestigious core areas of Petit and Grand Champagne area of Cognac in certain fixed proportions, they are creating a truly bespoke product with a sultry nose and a delectable palate. A whiff of this fine Cognac is sure to make anyone a true believer!
On the other end of the spectrum you will come across the famous house of Hennessy. It is a name that has come around to becoming synonymous with Cognac especially in countries like the USA and China where it enjoys a big demand. A small boat ride awaits at the start of the tour which takes you across the river and towards the cellars and tasting rooms of the house.
The house of Hennessy with its state of the art tour room showcases the history of the house on a giant panoramic screen! The tour follows to show the brand’s global reach in yet another extravagant manner, this time, on a large hemisphere with a sound and light show. After learning about the production and ageing process of the Hennessey cognac in an extremely interactive guided tour, you will head back across the river to the main building for the tasting. The product as well as the philosophy of the house demonstrates the international reach and globalization that this brand has gone through.
Within one day you will come across two entirely different yet equally stimulating sides of the world of Cognac. Discovering these facets of the French spirit is an experience that will bring you closer to not just the culture and history of the region, but also help you realize the outreach and impact this product has on the rest of the world.
If you're interested in one of our Cognac Wine Tours, please visit this link.
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