The Cognac Region
The region - Cognac - a history of brandy
Most of the wine regions in France produce spirit from wine from either fermented grape juice, universally known as Brandy, or from pomace, the residue of skins and stalks left over after pressing and generally known in France as Marc.
However only one region in the west of France in an area straddling several Departments, Charente and Charente-Maritime produces the finest grape spirit, Cognac. The town of Cognac that straddles the Charente River gives its name to both the region and the spirit produced there.
Brief History of Cognac
Up to the 17 century the region had developed trade in inferior wine with England and the Low Countries. The practice of distilling started by boiling down this coarse wine to reduce the taxes levied on the bulk wine. Dutch salt merchants sailing out of the port of La Rochelle brought back the distilled wine from Charente which they called Brandewign (burnt wine), which the English corrupted to “Brandy”.
Hennessy from Ireland; Hardy and Hine from England; and Martell from the Channel Islands formed the foundation for some of the great Cognac houses of today, and they remain household names.
While Cognac was originally distilled by small distillers, often with mobile stills, today through economics and largely government regulations the production has been reduced to medium-size operations and an emphasis on large-scale operations for bottling and marketing.
COGNAC – a VINEYARD of Land and Ocean
In Charente and Charente-Maritime, land and ocean come together to provide the vine with an ideal climate. The vineyard stretches over the limestone hillsides of the Appellation Controlée area, where, for over four centuries, winegrowers have respected the same traditions and know-how for the elaboration of two great quality products, Cognac and Pineau des Charentes. Also traditional vineyards produce good red, white and rose wines under Vins de Pays Charentais.
There are six districts that produce cognac. The finest cognacs comes from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne areas. (When cognacs from these two districts are blended together they can be called "Fine Champagne". However, only cognacs made exclusively from Grande Champagne may be known as "Grande Champagne.") The remaining four districts are Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires. Today 203,454 acres are under cultivation for the production of cognac.
What makes this a great area for wine and food lovers?
Looking for an aperitif? Cognac has the perfect solution, Pineau des Charentes which with rich full flavours is the perfect partner for blue cheeses and pate. When it comes to food and cuisine Cognac is much more than the drink, wonderful dishes created by talented chefs who balance style with a ready supply of produce from the sea and the land and you have the Cognac style.
With the ocean and the land the attractions seem almost endless.
- The weather – what attracted the ancient Romans still attracts visitors to Cognac, with the second highest sunshine hours in France (only exceeded by the Cote d Azur) it is the perfect region to visit and play in.
- Cognac - the drink has a romance and a ring to its name that is known the world over and is the perfect place to enjoy this superb spirit.
- Pineau, or to be correct, Pineau des Charentes, is a drink made from fresh grape juice and cognac that matures in oak barrels into a nectar that should be reserved for Roman gods.
- Oysters, the famous Huitres des Iles, huge, juicy, succulent shellfish of a quality exclusive to this part of the world - the largest producers in France.
- And to go with such oysters, Vin de Pays Charentais wines. In particular Blanc (white) wines made from the Cognac grapes of Ugni Blanc and Colombard plus Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Chardonnay.
- The coast and the beaches ranging from safe Gironde Estuary to the open beaches on the Atlantic coast.
Then the towns
- Cognac – with the world famous cognac houses such as Hennessy and Hine with guided tours around their distilleries. And the old town of Cognac an attraction in its own right.
- Saintes – with one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in France. You can almost hear the scream of the victims being thrown to the lions! Great cathedrals, beautiful abbey and good shops plus a great fish market.
- Royan – super beaches, great fishing, a good yacht harbour, interesting cathedral plus a very good indoor market featuring heaps of local produce.A smart modern seaside town.
- Talmont – one of the prettier estuary villages with a much photographed church perched on a cliff edge.
- Marennes – the home of the oyster and mussel industry with local seafood shops selling direct to the public.
Savour the spirit – the world-famous drink Cognac
Savour the liquor wine – Pineau des Charentes
Savour the oysters – Huitres des Iles
Savour the fresh produce – Aux Beaux Fruits
Savour the history – Saintes, Capital of Roman Saintonge
COURVOISIER - HENNESSY - HINE - MARTELL - OTARD - RÉMY MARTIN - MEUKOW - CAMUS - famous names known to cognac lovers the world over.
NOW you can have the unique experience of a private guided tour round some of the famous Cognac houses and equally brilliant smaller producers PLUS the actual vineyards where the grapes are grown.
Discover the warmth of COGNAC with Sébastien, director of Cognac Tourguide— Boutique Private Cognac tours
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