Cognac has long been regarded as the most important spirit of France, and one of the worlds best-known types of brandy or eau de vie. It is produced in the Charentes district, north of Bordeaux. Cognac the town is situated on the river Charente between the towns of Angoulême and Saintes. This historic and attractive town is on the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. Cognac
It was Francis I in the 16th century who granted the right to trade salt along the river, that guaranteed the town strong commercial success which in turn led to the town’s development as a centre of wine and later brandy. The town has a lovely medieval quarter “Vieux Cognac” running from the Tours Saint-Jacques, alongside the river, up to the Saint-Léger church. The area contains many unusual buildings, built between the 15th and 18th centuries, situated on narrow cobbled streets. Many contain sculptures of the salamander, Francis I’s symbol, as well as gargoyles and richly decorated facades. The area also is the home to the Musés des Arts du Cognac and the Sain-Gobain glass works and barrel works.
To be granted the name cognac the spirit must be made in certain areas around the town of Cognac and must be made to according to strictly-defined regulations. The Coganc delimited area was established in 1909 and extends along the banks of the Charente all the way to the Atlantic coast. It covers a large part of the department of Charente, all of the Charente-Maritime and a few areas of the Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres.
The delimited area is divided into six growth areas, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois and Bon Bois. The entire Cognac vineyard covers around 80,000 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres). The soils are mostly chalk and chalky clay, which receive regular watering from the maritime climate. The main grape variety planted is Ugni Blanc, this slow ripening variety is very resistant to diseases and produces a wine that has two vital qualities for distilling : a high level of acidity and a good alcohol content. In simple terms the white wine made from these grapes is double distilled following the traditional method “ à repasse”. The eau-de-vie obtained is stored for many years in oak casks so it may acquire its legendary colour and aromas. We shall leave it to you to discover more about this fascinating process to produce this delicious spirit!
Another drink from Cognac region is Pineau des Charentes, a popular aperitif in the region which is a white wine fortified with cognac, delicious drunk chilled. Recently winemakers have also increasingly made a table wine “vin de pays charentais” using totally different grapes and methods to those required for cognac.
Interestingly enough cognac seems to be only used in desserts in the local cuisine. Desserts from the Cognac region are one of the most sumptuous in France, such as the delectable ‘Caillebotte’ a cheesy form of yogurt similar to a baked cheesecake, smothered in cognac, also the towns trademark dessert cognac flavoured ice cream called ‘parfait au cognac’.
For the rest of the menu geography plays and important part, as the town is situated on the banks of the Charente this make seafood a popular choice, followed by chicken dishes cooked with a breed of chicken calle ‘poule de marans’.
The best butter in France called ‘Charentais’ comes from the Cognac region, as well as a local delicacy, a creamy, white round, soft goats cheese called ‘Le Petit Semussec’.
Bordeaux (St Emilion) & Cognac by Train
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Explore Cognac staying at a Charente Chateau
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