Last week, I spent an amazing three days in the beautiful region of Cognac, France. My class and I set out on a short 3 hour train ride to explore and taste some of the greatest Cognacs of the world. Also, to discover how this rare and celebrated spirit is made and the subtle differences that can awaken a whole new flavor profile based on the producer, terroir, and skill.
5 bottles of Cognac are sold in the world every second. 97% of Cognac is exported out of France with the major receiving country being the USA
Our days were packed with a mix of small producers and large massive corporations including Hennessy and Remy Martin. It was really neat to see how small producers compete. There are three distinctive facts that set levels of Cognac apart. VS (Very Special) has to be aged in barrels for two years minimum before bottling. VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) has to be barrel aged a minimum of four years. XO has to be barrel aged 6 years but soon a new law will be passed making it 10 years.
We had multiple tastings a day at each location. In total I tasted nearly 60 Cognacs in the 3 days!
This bottle (above) retails at $5,000 for the bottle.
I will not ever forget being invited to the Martell “Manor” and being served a Cognac Cocktail in the Billiard Room. Then, spending three hours over a 6-course meal…and drinking Cognac while exploring the deer grazing property until 2 am…. Incredible. Private Chefs made appearances… and business talk as well as pleasurable conversation filled with laughter over the course of the evening. Enjoying this property was a once in lifetime experience. Can we all sip Cognac in a MANOR?? 15 bedrooms.
Truly the best memories spent.
In simple terms : Cognac starts by making white wine which is high in acidity and low in alcohol. This is then heated to create vapors… then this liquid solidifies and is heated again. Known as double distillation which is absolutely required in making Cognac. After the process we will have roughly 72 percent alcohol that will be put into barrels to age and color and well….make Cognac.
The next morning… we set out to the barrel making plant. Cognac can only be barreled in new barrels made specifically for Cognac. Unlike wine, which can be barrel-aged in old barrels, barrels that previously held liquor and also re-used. Cognac cannot.
Such skill, effort and labor went into crafting these. I was truly impressed with the entire process. We watched each barrel being made from start to finish including tacking on the laser label!
Next… sitting in at Hennessy. Acting as professionals weighing in on several vintages. Noting the subtle nuances… Who am I?
As always, beautiful scenery and fantastic…. beyond refined meals.
Two of my favorite dishes of the trip. Although hard to pick…we have multiple courses at both lunch and dinner daily….with wine and/or Cognac pairings.
(Smoked Salmon, Beet mousse, wasabi breadsticks, miso pickled cabbage)
(Coffee Macaron, Dark Chocolate Gelato, Poached Pear, Cognac Caramel)
In total we visited the following Cognac Houses…
Tesseron, Martell, Doreau, Remy Martin, Delamain a Jarnac, De Luze, Hennessy, Paul Giraud.
Hotel : Chateau De L’Yeuse
I am saturated with knowledge and another town in France that I fell in love with. This never gets old. I love this country. Oh, the beauty…
We had this cocktail every day at “cocktail hour”… it was fabulous. This is a lighter more refreshing way to drink Cognac. Although it is frequently consumed after a meal as a digestif, this is a nice alternative.
Cognac Cocktail Recipe
1 lime , zested (thin strips)
4 strips, fresh ginger
1.5- 2 oz Cognac (depending how strong you want)
2 oz limonade
1 lime wedge
5 ice cubes