Cognac is a distillate from a strictly controlled area in the Charente and Charente-Maritime départements of south-west France. Produced from white wine, which is double distilled in pot stills, to a strength not exceeding 72 % abv and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Terroir has a huge impact on cognac ; soils found nowhere else on earth, under a unique combination of micro and meso climates help explain why no other region can come close to producing a similar brandy. Vagaries of both the cool north and the warm south are frequently apparent, while the Atlantic exerts a maritime influence and the Massif Central ensures that the extremes of continental climes are felt too.
The Cognac Region
Based on the official decree of 1st May 1909, the region was divided into geographical crus :
Grande Champagne (17.8 %) Rich in Campanien chalk ; resulting in brandies of delicacy, elegance and finesse
Petite Champagne (20.7 %) Santonian chalk prevails here, which is earthier resulting in fruitier brandies, though still very elegant.
Borderies (5.4 %) High clay content with flint giving fatter, fuller-bodied brandies with dried fruit characteristics, very useful for blending.
Fins Bois (42 %) Chalk, sand and clay are all evident giving fuller brandies that are quicker to mature. The best vineyards offer floral, fragrant brandies with notes of sweet spice.
Bons Bois (12.6 %) and Bois Ordinaires/Bois
Communs (1.5 %) for blending.
Age Designations : VS/3 Star/Reserve, Minimum 2 years, VSOP Minimum 4 years, Napoleon/XO/Extra Minimum 6 years