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  • Jane Egginton & Judith Baker

A Taste of Cognac

We recently embarked on an early summer trip to Cognac, not just to explore this beautiful part of South West France, but also to discover the many ways you can now experience the region’s famous spirit.

Cognac pairing with food, cocktail making classes, a ride in a classic 2CV to a picnic in the vineyard and traditional cask making demonstrations are just a sample of how the Discover Cognac initiative is encouraging visitors to take a fresh look at the town and region.

The Maison Bache-Gabrielsen, created by a young Norwegian lieutenant, has been operating since 1905. Hervé Bache-Gabrielsen, representative of the 4th generation, manages the company alongside Jean-Philippe Bergier, cellar master of the House for over 30 years. Here in the historic cellars in Cognac we learnt the history and origins of the House and accepted the cellar master’s challenge to recompose the blend he created.

We sniffed, sipped and swirled in our attempt to recreate the subtle combination of taste, aroma and strength of the unique bottle.

We explored The vineyards of Remy Martin in a leisurely fashion with electric bikes and jeeps in Grande Champagne. The landscapes, filled with dramatic white limestone and swathes of sunflowers, offer wonderful views over the valleys of vineyards and rural heritage featuring windmills and Roman churches.

The route was punctuated by stop-offs, to enjoy cognac tasting and local products such as delicious pineapple macaroons.

There are 200 Cognac producers in the area including big names such as Hennessey, Martell and Remy Martin but with an increasing number of increasingly smaller houses . Each cognac house has a tour which explains the process of making cognac and it diversity. In contrast to the slick modern distillery we saw at Remy Martin, the rustic Les Frères Moines vineyard is a family business created in the 1980s, in Chassors, in the heart of the Charente vineyards. Their tour includes a demonstration of barrel making techniques unchanged for centuries.

Hine, the only official supplier of Cognac to the English court since 1962, has a Grapes and Feelings experience. Here there is a rather unusual approach to aging: the "Early Landed" vintages. These Cognacs have the particularity of being shipped in barrels to the UK to age in conditions of humidity and temperature very different from those of cellars in Jarnac. After visiting the Paradis winery and the vintage cellar, we enjoyed a unique tasting of several distinctive vintages.

Germain, the owner of Bar Louise in central Cognac leads cocktail making sessions which allow visitors to create their own cocktails such as Sidecar (cognac, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice) or Sazerac (made with cognac, Absinthe, sugar and bitters). Cognac mixologists like to tell you that Sazerac was one the world’s first cocktails, first sipped in New Orleans in 1838. You are never very far from a Cognac or cocktail throughout the region, but for great vibes and panoramic views head to one of the rooftop bars in Cognac town such as Indigo Bar by Martell at the top of the Gate bourse Tower or Le Rooftop at the Hotel Chais Monnet.


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