Cognac & Pineau


cognacCognac is a variety of brandy made from eau-de-vie, specifically dry, acidic and thin, This noble alcoholic drink is a pride of France. It was created in province Cognac some centuries ago.

The entire Cognac vineyard covers around 80.000 hectares and 15.000 plantations that produce white wine for the production of Cognac. The main grape variety that is planted is Ugni blanc (mostly “Folle Blanche” and “Colombard”).

The process of producing is very long and is divided into several stages, which is strictly regulated by law :

  1. Vintage in october
  2. Pressing grape and keeping juice for fermentation in period of 3 weeks, without any sugar inside
  3. Double distilling of young wine called Blanc de Blanc in traditionally shaped Charentais copper stills, also known as an alembic for producing eau-de-vie which is a colourless spirit of about 70% alcohol
  4. Filling in specially prepared wooden casks which are made of oaks which are not younger than 80-100 years and grown in forests of Limousin and Tronçais. From the whole tree just bottom part is taken for making cask and it has to be outside for 3 years, in order to prevent bitter taste of cognac. After this period of time the casks are transferred for special procedure « burning », thanks to this cognac has its specific fragrance of freshly baked bread
  5. Pouring wine in oak casks and aging not less than 2 years. Cognac is classified into different types of aging in casks and this fact will play a role in price and the taste property of cognac. Being in casks the cognac contacts with air and due to this process tannin are created in cognac and in their turn, they are mains factors in a springing up of magic bouquet of cognac. In contact with air part of alcohol is evaporated (3-4 % per year), and this phenomena is called «angel’s sharing »
  6. In the end of aging the special master of making bouquets « maîtres de chai » tries the cognac and creates various bouquets of cognac and decides which has to stay longer in casks and which has to be bottled when the aging is stopped. This art they study all their life.

MartellThe aging of the cognac is classified in the following way

  • V.S. (Very Special), Selection, de Luxe, Trois Etoiles — not less then 2 years
  • Superior — not less than 3 years
  • V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), V.O. (Very Old), Vieux, Réserve — not less than 4 years
  • V.V.S.O.P. (Very Very Superior Old Pale), Grande Réserve — not less than 5 years
  • X.O. (Extra Old), Extra, Napoleon, Royal, Très Vieux, Vieille Réserve — not less than 6 years

The cognac can be used also with various cocktails using in various cocktails mixing Cognac with menthol creams, liqueurs, rum, champagne, juice, etc. Also there is special method “à la Nicolay” of drinking cognac, it is to eat a bit of lemon after drinking, in the honor of the last Emperor of Russia Nikolayi II.

There are 200 cognac producers, but the most famous are four companies: Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin. Other brands are: Camus, Chateau Fontpinot, Delamain, Pierre Ferrand, Frapin, Marcel Ragnaud, Cognac Croizet and others.

Pineau des Charentes

2569748809_9823f069f7_zThe Pineau des Charentes is an undiscovered gourmet delight relatively unknown outside France but those who have tried this distinctive and delicious aperitif will testify to its qualities. Pineau is fortified wine, vin de liqueur, blended of slightly fermented grape must and eaux-de-vie (Cognac).

The recipe was created by a pure accidence done by a wine maker in 1589 who added grape juice into a barrel with eau de vie. After few years he discovered so good and new taste and after it became regular practice.

There are 3 types of Pineau wine which are: white, rosé and red wines. However the white Pineau remains the most common wine.

  • White pineau is made with white grapes such as Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche. White pineau has to be aged for 18 months in oak barrels. The color, ranging from pale yellow to a dark golden colour, with thick legs. The taste of Pineau is sweet but also balanced in a way that acid notes come through. There are lots of different Pineau and aromas.
  • Red and rosé pineau. The red Pineau is more popular in the region of Charente. This Pineau is made from dark, red grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. After pressing grape juice has to be aged for a minimum of 14 months. The color can be rosé to deep brown-red, mahogany, copper.

There is a must in producing pineau for both red and white varieties: unfermented grape juice and the cognac have to be mixed by the same producer. Most pineau is a blend of roughly one quarter cognac to three quarters wine must, with an alcoholic strength of between 16.5% to 22% alcohol.

The taste of pineau is mild but interesting, and unusual compared to other aperitif wines. No herbal flavors, bitterness or spice leap out at you. There is also little of the matured complexity of aperitif wines like port or cherry. This stuff is simply sweet, full bodied, and extremely ‘fresh’. It tastes like a very fruity wine, but also reminds strongly of mead (honey wine). It is hard to believe it contains no honey since the honey taste is so strong. There is also some apple aroma, though again no apples were harmed in its manufacture. Like Cognac, Pineau has a classification with 5 years minimum in oak barrels for Merlot Vieux and 10 years for Très Vieux.

To consume your Pineau des Charentes will be preferably sipped as aperitif. It will be in perfect harmony with the sampling of Foie Gras as well. As a liqueur it will be appreciated as digestive during the dessert. The young Pineau wines can be savoured with white meats as well as fishes during the meal.

Appreciated as an aperitif, it will be the magical ingredient in a few French traditional recipes involving chocolate, snails, cheese (cheese such as Bleu d’Auvergne (Blue) and Roquefort) and typical fruits salads.

The vast majority of pineau is either consumed within France or exported to Francophone markets. Less than 25% of pineau production is exported, and over 90% of exports go to Belgium and Canada.

The distinctive taste of Pineau des Charentes has popularity inside France, Belgium and Canada and this makes an idea that it can have great success among consumers worldwide.

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