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Introduction to Cognac

Location: 

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

Grapes:

Cognac is made from 98% Ugni Blanc grapes.

Copper Cognac Alambic

Distillation:

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. 

 

Cognac barrels

 

Ageing:

Limousin oak is used for its tannins and vanilla. 

 

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