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.
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.
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