Cognac and Pineau
"Cognac is for people who love life and good living. It is a way of life. But take your time. Taste it with your five senses. Look at it, take the glass in your hand and feel it, then smell it, then taste it and then clink your glass with your partners and say ‘Cheers!" ..Bernard Hine
Located as we are in Segonzac, the capital of the Grande Champagne, we have welcomed guests from all over the world who are drawn to the home of the celebrated spirit of cognac. Whilst cognac production stretches across both the Charente and Charente Maritime regions, the golden triangle known as the Grande Champagne is the area between Cognac, Segonzac and Jarnac. The Grande Champagne is the geological centre of cognac country and the heart of the wine growing area producing the best ‘cru’ or growth.
Cognac production is small in scale compared with say the whisky, vodka, gin and even the tequila industries but it sells over 205 million bottles a year and the product is shipped to 153 countries around the world. A market worth in excess of €3.2bn a year (2017) which is approximately 1/4 of the revenue from french wines and spirits even though cognac represents less than 10% of the country’s vineyards. At anytime there are 7 years worth of stock ‘sleeping’ in the chais equivalent of over 1 billion bottles.
There are 6400 vineyards producing white wine for cognac and the majority of the production is sold to the major cognac houses with instantly familiar names such as Hennessy, Martell and Remy Martin. Whilst 74% of the market is controlled by the top 4 houses (84% by the top 10), there is still room for approximately 250 independent producers who sell their unique products direct to clients. So whether you simply want to learn how cognac is made or if you are a serious fan and collector, come and discover a product and industry that has survived for over 400 years and continues to thrive and develop new products such as organic and flavoured cognacs.
The Major Cognac Houses
All the famous names based in the area have visitor centres and welcome people of all nationalities to learn about the magical distillation process. Most consist of a guided tour and demonstration followed by a tasting session with an expert to guide you through the complex flavours found in every glass. If you want to immerse yourself even more, then there are options to dine on cognac inspired dishes, eat with the cellar master or even blend your own cognac and take the bottle home with you!
The independent producers
Many of the local producers open their doors to visitors and are proud to give them a tour of their property where cognac has been distilled and the vines tended for generations. Enjoy a tipple direct from the barrel and taste the range of cognacs they produce to experience the differences between VS, VSOP, and XO blends. A fabulous opportunity to take home a product unique to the area.
No visit to the Cognac region would be complete without trying the local liqueur-Pineau. Produced in both white and rose, the liqueur is produced by blending grape juice and cognac. The perfect accompaniment to melon, foie gras and chocolate dishes and if you have any left over then it is great for cooking too!