Cognac is a brandy, but not all brandies are cognac. The secret of cognac is the terroir, which is unique, and even if it were, climatic conditions would not match those of the Charente region, where it originates.
The soil of Charente contains a lot of chalk, and the heart of it is called Grande Champagne, because of its resemblance of composition to that of Champagne a few hundred kilometres east.
The next best sub-region in Charente is Petite Champagne.
Remy Martin, the best selling cognac in France, uses only grapes from these two sub-regions.
For nearly three centuries, the consistency and elegance of Charente kept Remy Martin, always bottled in its trademark frosty bottle, alive. Today, the house produces only brandies from Grande Champagne, or petite Champagne appellation, which contain the best vineyards.
Generation after generation, cellar master after cellar master, Remy Martin has steadily grown becoming France’s most popular cognac.
All over the world cognac is a symbol of French lifestyle, and Remy Martin whether in Europe, the east, or in the Americas, has established itself as a premium cognac brand.
95 per cent Charente Maritime vineyards are planted to Ugni blanc (aka Trebbiano).
owns 250 hectares and buys grapes from selected farmers or distillates from farmers who have licence to distil.
The wines are distilled in alembic style copper stills at a 70 per cent ABV strength, and aged for a minimum of two years (marketable in France only), three years for V.S (Very Superior) quality for export; four years for V. S. O. P (Very Superior Old Product), and six years for XO.
An brand such as Louis XIII, Larsen Drakkar, Hennessy Richard Hennessy may be blended from cognacs that are barrel aged a minimum of six years up to 25.
Evaporation loss per annum is three per cent, and renders the final product more expensive and smoother the longer it is ages.
Needless to say, the cost of capital invested in the distillate must be taken into account.
Recently a Remy Martin
expert visited Toronto for a tasting organized fro the media and trade.
He set up a comparative blind tasting of cognacs of V.S.O.P quality, Grande- and Petite Champagne, and others.
Grande and Petite Champagne cognacs tasted elegant, were refined, light with a smooth mid-palates and extra long finish.
Then we tasted XO quality cognacs from both Grande and Petite Champagne against other sub-regions and found hat Grande and Petite Champagne cognacs tasted intense, were very smooth displaying flavours of dried fruit aromas and white flowers with very long and pleasant aftertastes.
I found the price difference between Grande and Petite Champagne and lesser qualities justifiable, and well worth the extra expense.
Contrary to common belief that cognac is only appropriate as a digestive, it goes well with a number of foods i.e smoked salmon, pates, terrines, blue cheese.
When pairing cognac with food, look for richness, aromatics, intensity, balance and finish, and proceed accordingly.