Cognac

Industry is dominated by 4 major house

 

  1. Remy Martin

  2. Hennessey

  3. Martell

  4. Courvoiser 

 

VS and VSOP account for 80% of production


Raw Material 

  • Grapes > 6 permitted varieties

Ugni Blanc

  • 98% of plantings

  • over took folle blanche after phylloxera. 

  • suitable brandy grape

  • good disease restience

  • low in sugar, high in acid

  • acidic, low alcohol wine

  • low alcohol wine need to be concentrated, therefore the flavour are concentrated more

  • acid help to protect the wine before its distilled

  • not immensely flavoured, once distilled - grapey/floral character

  • Colombard

  • Folle blanche

  • Semillon

  • Montils

  • Folignan (10% max)

Image below - Cognac Map

Location and Crus 

  • 6 wine growing areas "crus"

Production is concentrated around the town of Cognac.  

  1. Grande Champagne

  2. Petite Champagne

  3. Borderies

  4. Fins Bois

  5. Bons Bois

  6. Bois Ordinaires 

The soil varies across the crus from extremely sandy to very chalky.

Grand Champagne 

  • 13,000 ha

  • chalk soil > good drainage, sufficient water retention

  • fine, light eaux-de-vie

  • floral bouquet

  • long ageing in oak cask

  • label > "Cognac Grande Fine Champagne"

Petite Champagne

  • 15,000ha

  • similar to Grande Champagne

  • label > "Fine Champagne" if minimum of 50% of the grapes are from Grande Champagne

 

Borderies 

  • smallest cru - 4,000ha

  • fine, round, smooth

  • violets

  • require shorter maturation then the Champagne crus

Fin Bois 

  • surround the 3 previous growing areas

  • 31,000 ha > largest growing area 

  • age fairly quickly

  • grapey aromas

Bons Bois + Bois Ordinaries 

  • together only account for 13% of production 

  • outskirts of the region 

  • Ordinaries > can be close to the coast

  • mature quickly

Processing the raw materials 

  • mechanically harvested 

  • speed and care to reduce contact with air

  • no so2 allowed

  • processed ASAP

  • grapes are crushed then pressed gently, forceful screw presses have been banned

Fermentation 

  • starts ASAP using cultured yeast

  • natural acid in the wines helps protect the grapes

  • MLF to improve stability

  • stored in full, airtight steel containers awaiting distillation

Distillation

  • ASAP - must be completed by 31st March following vintage 

  • double pot still distillation

  • Chartenais > buubous pot built into a brick house that hold the furnace, sharply turned down linking pipe

  • Some still will include a wine heater

  • Still must be directly heated

  • must use a worm tub condenser

  • with lees > richer mouth-feel, greater intensity and complexity

  • w/o lees > light, purer style 

  • aim > slow and steady boil, easier to do with modern gas burners

  • 1st distillation > "brouillis" 27-30%abv > max capacity 140HL

  • 2nd distillation > maximum 72.4%abv > filled to max 25HL

  • heads and tails are redistilled with the next batch or wine or brouillis

  • heads/tails with the wine > less concentration of congeners, lighter flavoured spirit

  • heads and tails with the brouillis > deper, richer

Post Distillation 

Maturation 

  • minimum 2 years

  • oak containers

  • most common 350L barrels

  • oak from the Limousin forest > more open grained

  • oak from the Troncais forest > tighter grained, more aromatic qualities

  • eau-de-vie placed in new oak for a 6m-1yr, oak derived flavours to be obtained, then moved on to older barrels for further flavour development

  • glass demijohns can be used when the producers well like the eau-de-vie has nothing more to gain from spending time in oak, around the 50yr mark

Additions 

  • oak chips - faster oakiness

  • young VS styles

  • caramel in limited quantities

  • sweeteners in limited quantities 

Blending

  • blended to produce a house style

  • job of the Cellar Master or Master blender

  • blend different ages/estates/crus together

  • ensure a consistent quality and tastes for consumers worldwide

  • monitor eau-de-vie closely after distillation

  • make the decisions for warehouse location, oak type, barrel size, length of ageing, how to dilute

Finishing 

  • filtering is the norm

  • reduced to bottling gradually to avoid soapy flavours

  • for dilution can use water or a mix of water and cognac known as Petite Eaxu

Styles 

Based on the youngest spirit in the blend 

Cru - 100% spirit must come from that cru

Fine Champagne - Grand Champagne (min50%) and Petite Champagne

3 Star // VS (very special) > 2yo

VSOP // Reserve > 4yo

Napoleon // XO // Extra // Hors d'age > 10yo

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