Charentes-Cognac

This region spreads across the Charente-Maritime and Charente ‘departments’. As well as Vins de Pays Charentais (‘country wines’), you’ll find Cognac and a wine liqueur called Pineau des Charentes.


Cognac

Worth visiting

An organisation called ‘Les étapes du Cognac’ (‘Places to stop off in Cognac’) has put together four themed tours:

- Cognac’s vineyards
- Cognac by river
- Architecture of Cognac
- Cognac and tradition.

You can visit the leading Cognac houses, in particular Hennessy and Louis-Royer with their well-known museum exhibits.

Not to be missed: when the stills are running, from November to March, the distillers welcome visitors.

Website

Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (trade body for Cognac)


The best of Cognac

The best area is ‘Grande Champagne’ (very thick layer of chalk)

Ugni Blanc grape variety, picked when they smell ripe

Double distillation (the first part is called ‘brouillis,’ which is distilled again to produce the ‘bonne chauffe’; they’re roughly equivalent to the words wash and low-wines in whisky distillation) between November and March

Aged for 3 to 50 years

The best Napoleon XO (the youngest spirit in the blend is at least six and a half years old)

A few Cognacs: Louis Royer XO, Delamain XO, Martell XO supreme



Pineau des Charentes

Pineau des Charentes is an AOC zone covering 1500 ha, nowhere near the surface area of Cognac.

Like all great inventions, pineau was discovered by chance at the end of the 16th Century, after a winegrower mixed some grape must with cognac spirit that happened to be in the barrel. In technical terms, pineau is therefore a liqueur wine. You need three quarters must to one quarter grape spirit.

The best Pineau comes in two styles: white and rosé.

Pineau blanc (made from white grape must, such as the Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Montils varieties) is aged in oak casks for at least one year, reaching 16 to 22° alcohol.

Pineau rosé is made from white and red grape must, which gives its colour. The varieties used are Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet. Minimum ageing for 8 months.

Vieux/Old Pineau is aged for at least 5 years, and very old or extra old pineau for more than 10 years.

Click here for the ‘Comité National du Pineau des Charentes’ website (trade body).

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