COGNAC PRODUCTION PROCESS
THE MANUFACTURE OF COGNAC
The quintessence of the brandy category, cognac is distinguished by its specific manufacturing method. Distillation is carried out according to the principle of discontinuous distillation or double distillation (known as Charentaise). This method consists of a succession of two stages called "chauffe": the first "chauffe" refers to the distillation of the wine (and possibly its lees) which allows us to obtain the brouillis (distillate with an alcohol content of approximately 30% vol.); the second "chauffe" or "bonne chauffe" refers to the distillation of the brouillis and allows us to obtain the Cognac eau-de-vie. CAMUS uses its own patented distillation method called INTENSITY. It allows us, during the second distillation, to select the most aromatic fractions of liquid. Rich in esters, they are responsible for the intense fruity aromas of our premium cognacs.
Then comes the ageing in oak barrels, allowing the cognac to naturally gain in flavor. The drink then obtains its particular color. The next step is the reduction. It consists in adding a certain quantity of water in the brandy to decrease the alcohol level to about 40%. Finally, the cellar master blends the eaux-de-vie to create a unique product.
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WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT APPELLATIONS OF COGNAC?
In 1936, cognac officially became an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). Learn about the different appellations of cognac and their differences in many aspects, both in terms of location and even grape variety!
IN WHICH REGION IS COGNAC PRODUCED?
AOC cognac can only be produced in a specific production area. This was defined by a decree in 1909. Thus, cognac can only be made from wines harvested and distilled in the Charente-Maritime, Charente and some communes in the Deux-Sèvres and Dordogne. The Cognac region is the largest white wine producing area in France, with more than 80,000 hectares of vines. These vines grow on clay-limestone soil in a mild, temperate climate.
WHICH GRAPE VARIETY FOR A GOOD COGNAC?
A cognac may be made from a single grape variety or a blend of several grape varieties, as long as they are among the following species:
- Ugni blanc, an ancient grape variety from Italy, is the most widely planted white grape in France in terms of surface area. The majority grape variety for making cognac, Ugni blanc covers more than 98% of the vineyard. It is favored for its relative tolerance to certain diseases, such as gray mold. The Ugni blanc also gives its eaux-de-vie a high acidity and a low sugar content. This pronounced acidity naturally ensures the conservation of the future wine.
- Colombard is one of the oldest grape varieties still present in the region. It has many similarities with Ugni blanc, such as its maturity, high acidity and low sugar content. Its very lively and exuberant aromas evoke notes of citrus and flowers.
- For a long time the majority of vines in the Charente were Folle blanche, one of the great victims of the phylloxera crisis. Highly susceptible to gray mold once grafted, it now represents less than 1% of the cognac vineyard. This unique grape variety produces wines with low alcohol content to obtain harmonious eaux-de-vie with powerful aromas.
- A little-planted grape variety, Sémillon offers aromas of undergrowth, such as vanilla or toast. Present in the decree of the appellation, it is nevertheless very little used currently.
- Grown mainly in the Charente vineyards, Montils has characteristics similar to Ugni blanc, while being earlier and less acidic. Despite its limited productivity, it gives rise to quality eaux-de-vie.
- Finally, Folignan is a new grape variety obtained by crossing Folle blanche and Ugni blanc. Rich in aromas, it is earlier and more sensitive than the latter. Its floral aromas are reminiscent of rose or lilac. It should be used "as a complement" to the other grape varieties. It cannot exceed 10% of the vineyard's total.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT CRUS OF COGNAC?
The character of each eau-de-vie is resolutely linked to the characteristics of the soils of this immense vineyard. Thus, the cognac production area has been divided into six concentric crus.
In the heart of the vineyard are the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne, which give birth to very fine eaux-de-vie with a predominantly floral bouquet. Those also require a long ageing.
CAMUS cognacs come from the Borderies cru, which generally produces round and sweet eaux-de-vie with violet and iris scents.
The Fins Bois cognacs benefit from a faster ageing process and a bouquet evoking pressed grapes. The Bons Bois deliver fruity aromas, while the Bois à Terroir benefit from a more maritime climate.
HOW IS COGNAC MADE?
Years of work and a certain know-how are necessary to produce cognac. It all starts with the harvesting of the grapes which are pressed immediately after the harvest. The must obtained is then fermented to transform it into wine.
Then comes the stage of double distillation in the Charentaise style, known as "en double chauffe". It is carried out in a specific copper still. The first distillation allows to obtain a brandy of which only the most noble portion is preserved. The remainder undergoes a second distillation called "la bonne chauffe" (the good distillation) which allows the first condensates to be distinguished from the last. The heart of the toast is then separated to be aged in oak barrels.
This ageing process allows the alcohol to take on the flavours of the wood and its particular color. This stage takes place in cellars in order to refine and store the brandies until bottling. In the meantime, the reduction takes place, which consists of adding a small amount of water in order to reach the recommended alcohol levels more quickly (40% max).
Blending is the role of the cellar master, who must select the eaux-de-vie and stop their aging at the right moment. He can choose to blend eaux-de-vie from several different vintages and ages or offer a cognac from a single barrel or a single year. Finally, the cognac is bottled and labeled.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COGNAC
Unlike whiskey, cognac indicates its age using letters rather than numbers. There are four official age statements, standardized by the BNIC:
The VS cognac (known as "Very Special") is a spirit made from brandies aged in oak barrels for at least two years. It is livelier on the palate than other cognacs and has particularly fruity aromas.
A VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) cognac includes in its blend a brandy that is at least four years old. It tends to be sweeter than VS, with woody notes.
An XO is an "Extra Old" cognac. Its brandies are aged in barrels for a minimum of ten years. Thanks to this time spent in the barrels, it offers a rich and sumptuous palate, with aromas of spices, chocolate, caramel and dried fruits.
The Extra Cognac, like an XO, is composed of eaux-de-vie that have rested for at least ten years in casks. Aged well beyond the requirements, its average age ranges from 15 to 25 years.
An exceptional eau-de-vie, cognac is the result of meticulous blending, a characteristic terroir and traditional know-how. CAMUS cognacs are an expression of this, distinguished by their extraordinary aromatic intensity.
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