With the spotlight on France’s wines, it is cognac that is shoved under the rug, despite being equally as popular, with 95% of the spirit’s yield exported abroad.
Cognac, a French variety of brandy, is named after the region of France where it is produced. But how often do you hear of a tourist visiting Cognac? Instead, they head over to neighboring Bordeaux, and Burgundy, and the Rhône Valley, sampling worthy wines, leaving Cognac dreamily estranged in a corner of the Limousin forest.
Cognac, often drank as a digestif (after-meal spirit), is also made from grapes, like wine. However, cognac distillers do not own vineyards. Instead, they buy eau-de-vie, a wine made of fermented and pressed grapes through a process that takes about two to three weeks, which will be turned into cognac after a process of aging. It’s up to the master distillers to take the eau-de-vie on a dance through the minimum two-year aging process, blended according to the house of origin’s palette, in barrels made from French oak wood often from the Limousin forest.
The most famous cognac maker is Rémy Martin, and a less famous but equally important one is Louis XIII. A creation of the bigger house, Louis XIII ages its eau-de-vie for about a century with each master finishing the work of generations before and preparing the spirit for a future they will never live to see. This cognac is sold for approximately $3,500 per bottle.
Louis XIII (the King) was himself a huge aficionado of the spirit and his name is synonymous with cognac. And being that it is a royally-approved drink with established roots and customs in France, it is an essential element of French patrimony. Cognac for France is similar to what whisky is for the country’s Scottish neighbors: it is a drink to know, respect, and savor, and the time and effort it takes to age the product should be recognized.
Often imagined as a drink of the older generation, cognac is bound to go through a re-birth similar to whisky, which has reemerged as a millennial drink, according to Market Watch.
Equally as interesting as the wine countrysides, Cognac (the region) is just a few hours away on the Paris-Bordeaux train line and you can get there for around $60 roundtrip. Wander through the town, and don’t forget villages like Jarnac and Juillac le Coq, the Limousin forest, and areas all around (you can’t go wrong) to truly feel the real spirit of France. With châteaux like Rémy Martin offering tours, swanky hotels like Hôtel Chais Monnet, and an array of Michelin-starred restaurants, you will surely want to stay a few extra days. Cognac is a beautifully un-ruined, undiscovered, and perfectly loved region ready to accept the real gourmands of food and liquor and those willing to learn.
Featured image: Stock Photos from Vania Zhukevych / Shutterstock