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Introduction to Cognac


Cognac is produced in the South West of France, North of Bordeaux, near the Atlantic Ocean.


Appellation and soil:

There are 6 official areas of Appellation: Grande Champagne, also known as the 1st Cru; Petite Champagne; Borderies; Fins Bois; Bons Bois; and Bos Ordinaires. The soil in the region is mostly chalky. 


Fine Champagne Cognac is a blend of at least 50% from the Grande Champagne and the rest from the Petite Champagne. It is not an official cru, but is recognized as an AOC.


Cognac production is overseen by the Cognac Bureau (BNIC).

Map of the Crus of the Cognac region


Cognac is 98% made from Ugni Blanc grapes. (Colombard and Folle Blanche are also used).


From left to right:

Chalky soil of the Petite & Grande Champagne; Clay & Limestone in the Fins Bois; Loamy soil; Sandy soil

Copper Cognac Alambic


Double distillation in a Charentais still is mandated.


Brief Process:

The harvested grapes are pressed and the juice is left to ferment, giving a wine that is low in alcohol, but high in acidity.


The wine is then distilled twice: at the end of the first pass, the distilled spirit will be 30% alcohol; at the end of the second pass, the distilled spirit will be 70% alcohol.


It is then put in wood for ageing and later on will be blended and reduced with distilled water to about 40% alcohol. 



Limousin oak is used for its tannins and vanilla. 

Cognac barrels

Legal aging in wood is as follows:

  • VS must be a minimum of 2 years old
  • VSOP must be a minimum of 4 years old
  • Napoleon, Vieux, Extra  must be a minimum of 6 years old
  • XO must be a minimum of 10 years old (starting 2018)
  • Vintages: Strict regulations make it difficult to produce vintages 

Cognac by the Numbers (2022):

• 190,000 acres
• 10% of total French vineyard area
• 266 Cognac houses
• 120 distillers
• 3000 stills in production
• 4300 winegrowers
• 17,000 direct jobs
• 60,000 people whose livelihood depends on Cognac


• 376 million bottles produced in 2021

• 225 million bottles exported in 2021

• 115 million bottles exported to the US in 2021

• 1.85 billion bottles in barrels (stock)

• 32 million bottles evaporated per year

• 97% consumed outside of France

• 97% sold in US are VS and VSOP

• 7 bottles sold every sec. in the world

• 3.2 billion Euros annual sales