The « Cognac » delimited region
Made in Cognac...
'All Cognacs come from Cognac and the region'
Is that obvious, redundant ? Maybe so.
However, until 1909 when a decree protecting the delimited area was signed, this was not all that clear. The decree claims that only the spirit made with eaux-de-vie from the protected zone and permitted grapes are entitled to the name Cognac. They must be distilled and aged following specifically authorised techniques, respecting the double distillation process in a copper alembic, and aged in oak barrels for a minimum period of time.
Thus, all Cognac is brandy but not all coñac, kognac, or brandy is Cognac.
Not all Cognacs are alike:
With a rich clay soil, a softly tempered sea climate, and generous amounts of sunlight, the Charente valley enjoys a climate specifically favourable to cultivating vines. It covers over 200,000 acres along the Charente river and may be distinguished by six different viticultural areas, or 'crus'.
Enjoying specific climate and soil, each region produces different and complimentary qualities of eaux-de-vie. The areas form a circular belt surrounding Cognac, and the eaux-de-vie loose sharpness and gain in body as they move further from the center.
The blending, or "marriage", of these distinct qualities will confer to each Cognac its individual, unique, character.
The six 'crus' of Cognac
98% of the Cognac vineyards are planted with Ugni Blanc, although miniscule parcels of Folle Blanche and Colombard exist. The wine from these grapes reaches a very low alcohol level (7-9 degrees) while retaining high acidity. Wines of this sort are ideal for distillation, and are distilled several months after the harvest.
The Cognac producing region is divided into six growths areas (crus).
see the MAP OF GROWTH AREAS
Grande Champagne : about 13,000 hectares of clay and compact chalk soil. The Grande Champagne cru is located around the town of Segonzac. It produces a very fine, high-quality Cognac. It is known as the Premier Cru du Cognac.
Petite Champagne : some 16,000 hectares of clay and a more compact chalky layer of soil. Petit Champagne is very much of the same quality, but a touch lighter. It’s vineyards lie to the south-west and south-east of Grande Champagne.
Fine Champagne : The blending of Grande and Petite Champagne with a minimum of 50% of Grande Champagne is called “Fine Champagne”.
Borderies : only 4,000 hectares of unique soil on the plateau above Charente river. The eau de vie has a slight nutty taste. Borderies, which lie around the town of Burie (north-west of City of Cognac), is the smallest of the crus in the terms of acreage. Eaux-de-vie from Borderies has rich, flowery aromas and it is known as "…Cognac that ladies prefer".
Fins Bois : 37,000 hectares of soil. characterized by quick aging environment. A subtle flowery bouquet characterizes this eau de vie. The largest, and by far the intriguing cru, is Fins Bois. Geographically, it rings the other three crus. It lies, approximately, in the triangle between the towns of Rouilliac, Matha and Pons. It has a rich, full, strong aromas with a touch of the maritime climate.
Bons Bois : less chalky but more earthy soil of 16,000 hectares that is well reflected in the eau de vie.
Bois Ordinaires et Bois Communs (Bois a Terroir); 30,000 hectares of soil influenced by the Atlantic climate. Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires are the exterior crus heavily influenced by the climate of the Atlantic ocean. They contribute less and less to the overall production of Cognac but are, nevertheless, known to produce some interesting Cognacs.