Cognac the Spirit
For the festive season, France Today is exploring Cognac Country in an exclusive Web series. A bottle of cognac is a fabulous (and covetable!) gift for the holidays, and a visit to the vineyards and cognac houses in Poitou-Charentes is an even bigger gift.
First produced in the 17th century when the process of double distillation was discovered, cognac takes its name from the town of Cognac in the picturesque Charente Valley.
Today more than 21,000 people work to produce and market 130 million bottles a year which are sold in more than 100 countries.
The distinctive taste comes from a combination of the gentle climate, the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, and a rich variety of soils, and the AOC quality certification covers 5,600 vineyards across an area of 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres).
These vineyards are split into six areas or crus – Grande-Champagne, Petite Champagne and Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires – each one with clearly defined characteristics.
To produce cognac, a highly skilled Cellar Master blends several wines which are then aged in oak casks. Blends are named according to the minimum age of the youngest eau-de-vie in the mix – VS, VSOP and XO with VS being the youngest.
Cognac Country is also home to Pineau de Charentes, an AOC liqueur wine made from three parts grape juice to one part cognac. Drunk chilled as an aperitif or dessert wine, pineau comes in two varieties – dry white and a fruitier rosé.
For more information about cognac, the fine French spirit, click here.
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