Wine Tours in France - Cognac
Cognac – the name for a drink, a town and a region BUT in for most wine lovers it is the allure of the golden liquid - Cognac - which comes to mind. So off on your tour, but what to visit? The region has over 2000 distilleries producing Cognac and the associated Pineau (a blend of brandy and grape juice). They also range in size from the petit to the medium up to the international giants. Excellent tour information is available from local tourism offices with the maps and tour suggestions from Les Etapes du Cognac being outstanding (www.cognacetapes.com).
While in Cognac the wine lover will also find a small number of wineries producing excellent red and white wines - worth looking for! Throughout the region, you will find signs inviting you to taste and purchase cognac, pineau and wine. They can be a good starting point for a journey of discovery.
A ONE DAY TOUR - Cognac
P. Begaud - Vigneron Indépendant member
J.Claude Charonneau - cognac, pineau and merlot
J.Claude Charonneau - cognac, pineau and merlot
Chateau de Beaulon - fine cognac and pineau
The Charente, Cognac town and Cognac Houses trip
Domaine du Chene barrel room - fine cognac and excellent pineau
Cognac/Pineau Vineyard Selection
Domaine du Chêne
In our quest for a small cognac/pineau distiller, we were directed to Domaine du Chene. There are over 2000 producers in Cognac but this one was a gem! Yannis Chérat, who is responsible for product and sales, took care of us with a full tour of the grapes on the vines through the distilling process and ageing to the finished products in the bottles. Yannis is passionate about his work and a wonderful ambassador for cognac.
The vineyard property is 51 hectares in size with 55% Ugni Blanc, 40% Colombard, 5% Montils, 5% White Merlot.
Pineau des Charentes
We tasted the 6-year-old white Pineau which is made from 60% Ugni Blanc old vines. Pineau des Charentes - 12 year old (Gold medal 2005 at "Concours Agricole de Paris") Old or Vieux Pineau is a white Pineau, aged 12 years in oak cask. The colour of this old Pineau is rich, brilliant, and intense with reflections of copper. It is a product of long and careful ageing, as its aromas of dried fruits, nuts, and almond testify. It has a very sought after 'rancio' flavour (the flowery, nutty, spicy flavour that cognac begins to develop after ten or so years ageing in barrel). Its very round and persevering flavour offers notes of apricot and acacia honey. Magnificent. Exceptionnel !
Domaine du Chêne Cognac
Today the distillery benefits from the foresight of Jean Doussoux who had the policy of putting a portion of the production aside in the cellars. Beautifully aged fine cognacs of over 50 years old are presently available for purchase.
Domaine du Chêne Jean Doussoux X.O. nº20 Cognac
We were fortunate to sample Yannis’s “favourite” cognac a 20 year old XO cognac. This cognac is delightful and at home in any company. Pour it into a glass and your senses are hit by the aromas of the woodlands, taste and your mouth fills firstly with ripe fruit followed by tones of spices - sandalwood, saffron, nutmeg and cinnamon. The long aftertaste is sweet and mellow - absolutely delightful!
Domaine du Chêne Jean Doussoux X.O. nº50 Cognac
We tasted a 50-year-old Domaine du Chêne Jean Doussoux X.O. nº50 Cognac. If you appreciate things of beauty like classic cars such as Rolls Royce then this cognac is in the same class - to taste it was an exceptional experience and best enjoyed after a week or a lifetime of work when it is time to reflect and enjoy.
Château de BEAULON
17240 St Dizant du Gua, France
Château de Beaulon XO Vintage 1971
Describing this cognac, three words say it all: STYLISH, DELICATE, GOURMAND - a great summation of a superlative cognac - unforgettable!
A medium-size world-class distillery with five centuries of tradition behind it and today renowned for producing world-class cognac and outstanding pineau. The distillery is situated at Lorignac on the D730. Chateau de Beaulon has spurned the current practice of using Ugni Blanc and strictly adheres to using the original grape varieties of Folle Banche, Colombard and Montils in traditional proportions.
J. Claude Charbonneau
Chez Piché 17610 Chérac
Contact: Martine Charbonne
Tel:+33 (0)5 46 96 30 84
On the D 141 between Saintes and Cognac you will see signs for a number of Pineau/Cognac producers. We recommend “Chez Piche” so look for the signpost CHARBONNEAU near Cherac. Martine Charbonneau is a charming, English-speaking hostess and she will make you most welcome. They produce a very good Merlot Rouge and a Sauvignon Blanc however they specialise in excellent Pineau and Cognac at very reasonable prices. You are welcome to taste and purchase directly. Martine also operates a B&B so you sleep and drink on the same site!
Mansion Charbonneau Pineau des Charentes
A 6-year-old 17.5% Pineau from Ugni Blanc and their own Cognac. Well made and careful ageing results in a taste of almonds and stone fruits with a cognac overtone. Delightful chilled to drink sitting on a terrace in the afternoon, or pre-dinner with melons, or with dessert.
Tel: 00.33 (0)5 45 35 72 68 Fax: 00 33 (0)5 45 35 79 49
For visitors with limited time and/or only a passing interest in Cognac then a tour of one of the large international Cognac houses can be recommended. These tours are very educational and extremely well organised. We chose to do Hennessy, it being one of the original four traders who recognised the potential of Brandy back in 1765. Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton is now a huge international luxury goods company.
On the tour, you have a short boat trip up the river then to the opposite bank where warehouses have been converted into an outstanding display. The audio-visual elements are of the highest standard and certainly educate and inform so that you get a great insight into the growing of grapes and the whole production cycle from the soil to the bottle. The tour concludes with a tasting (note: the particular ticket you buy entitles you to either the cheapest or the most expensive cognac) and an opportunity to purchase Hennessy cognac.
In summary, an incredible educational museum experience, but for ourselves we prefer the personal interaction with the winemaker and distiller at a smaller producer.
Domaine de PONCEREAU de HAUT
Contact: Elisabeth and Jean Claude BENASSY
Tel: 05 46 90 73 63 Fax: 05 46 90 43 14
There are not a lot of wine-only producers in Cognac, so finding a small outstanding producer with an excellent range of new-world-style ready-to-drink blanc, rose and rouge wines was to strike “gold”. We sampled and purchased the following wines:
Vin de Pays Charentais Vin Blanc
A blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Chenin. A light lively wine with floral tones and a slightly acid finish - perfect with oysters.
2006 Cuvee Ophelie
A classy Sauvignon Blanc with excellent bouquet (mint & capsicum). Long intense taste of melons and tropical fruits.
2005 Cuvee Florian
A big Bordeaux style with 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 months in oak barrels. An exceptional wine and steal at 4.10 euros!
2006 Cuvee Ludovic
We have tasted numerous Cabernet Francs in the Loire and I must say that this wine could stand up with the best of them. A bouquet of fresh berry fruits and a delicate fresh taste of strawberries and cherries.