Region

The Charente Valley, a unique terroir

The Charente River wends its way through a beautiful green landscape of plains, low-lying hills, and vines as far as the eye can see. The river meanders through any number of Romanesque villages. Henri the 4th said that the Charente was “the most beautiful stream in my kingdom”.
For many years the main waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the hinterland, the Charente was once dotted with gabarres (a local kind of flat-bottomed boat) loaded with paper, Cognac, or stone on their way to the coast – or full of salt and fish on their way back.
The Charente region’s beautiful natural setting helps explain the healthy balance and inspiration of its people. The quality of life is excellent in the Charente, with many time-honored customs and traditions, epitomized by the graceful, unhurried way in which Cognac is appreciated. In fact, the Charentais have a philosophy of life that is worth knowing and sharing.

Les Crus de Cognac

Commercialized Cognac can be composed of six different crus. The last cru classification was done in 1938 and ranks the crus according to geologic and climatic specificities as well as taste properties.
According to their origin, the eaux-de-vie do not have the same organoleptic characteristics. Champagnes and Borderies crus produce a light and soft cognac with floral nuances. Bois crus have a fruity bouquet, with more rounded flavor and intensity for the Fins Bois and a pronounced taste of terroir for the Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaires.

Used Cépages (wine varieties)

The traditionally used cépages before the phylloxéra epidemic (which destroyed French vineyards in 1860s) were the Colombard and the Folle Blanche. Those varieties were largely replaced by the Ugni Blanc, a more resilient cépage. Today, nearly ten white cépages are allowed in Cognac production.

A know-how certified by an AOC
(Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée meaning “Controlled Appellation of Origin”)

In order to obtain the Cognac AOC, the eau-de-vie must respond to strict rules, defined by the Interprofessional National Bureau of Cognac (BNIC). Those rules specify the name and description of the Appellation , the definition of the geographical area, the description of production methods, the origins and the mandatory mentions.
This strict regulation on Cognac production certifies the exceptional Charente’s know-how and provides the Cognac eau-de-vie its unique characteristics.

 

Region

The Charente Valley, a unique terroir

The Charente River wends its way through a beautiful green landscape of plains, low-lying hills, and vines as far as the eye can see. The river meanders through any number of Romanesque villages. Henri the 4th said that the Charente was “the most beautiful stream in my kingdom”.
For many years the main waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the hinterland, the Charente was once dotted with gabarres (a local kind of flat-bottomed boat) loaded with paper, Cognac, or stone on their way to the coast – or full of salt and fish on their way back.
The Charente region’s beautiful natural setting helps explain the healthy balance and inspiration of its people. The quality of life is excellent in the Charente, with many time-honored customs and traditions, epitomized by the graceful, unhurried way in which Cognac is appreciated. In fact, the Charentais have a philosophy of life that is worth knowing and sharing.

Les Crus de Cognac

Commercialized Cognac can be composed of six different crus. The last cru classification was done in 1938 and ranks the crus according to geologic and climatic specificities as well as taste properties.
According to their origin, the eaux-de-vie do not have the same organoleptic characteristics. Champagnes and Borderies crus produce a light and soft cognac with floral nuances. Bois crus have a fruity bouquet, with more rounded flavor and intensity for the Fins Bois and a pronounced taste of terroir for the Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaires.

Used Cépages (wine varieties)

The traditionally used cépages before the phylloxéra epidemic (which destroyed French vineyards in 1860s) were the Colombard and the Folle Blanche. Those varieties were largely replaced by the Ugni Blanc, a more resilient cépage. Today, nearly ten white cépages are allowed in Cognac production.

A know-how certified by an AOC
(Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée meaning “Controlled Appellation of Origin”)

In order to obtain the Cognac AOC, the eau-de-vie must respond to strict rules, defined by the Interprofessional National Bureau of Cognac (BNIC). Those rules specify the name and description of the Appellation , the definition of the geographical area, the description of production methods, the origins and the mandatory mentions.
This strict regulation on Cognac production certifies the exceptional Charente’s know-how and provides the Cognac eau-de-vie its unique characteristics.

 

Cognac

Cognac, one of the world’s finest spirits

Cognac has often been referred as “the drink of the gods”. The first written record of Cognac production, dating back to the 17th century, mentions a certain Chevalier de la Croix Marron in Brée-en-Charente, who succeeded in capturing the very soul of wine by redistilling an already distilled wine. Aged in oak barrels in the cool half-light of Charentais cellars, this double-distilled spirit became hugely successful around the world. Oak ageing not only contributes tannin, but also enables Cognac to “breathe” through the pores in the wood and take on a beautiful amber color. Making fine Cognac is more of an art than a technique, and each distiller adapts to the quality and origin of the wine.
Going back to Cognac’s earliest history, and with surprisingly few changes through the years, every producer uses the same equipment: a copper pot still consisting of a boiler, an onion-shaped still head with a swan’s head connected to a cooler and condensing coil via a long pipe. The première chauffe, or first distillation, lasts for eight hours and produces a cloudy liquid known as brouillis. This substance is put back into the boiler for the second distillation, or bonne chauffe, which lasts over 12 hours. The Cognac producer’s art lies in knowing just when to eliminate the distillation “head” and “tails” to retain only the “heart”, which alone gives Cognac its inimitable aroma and flavor.

Roman Antiquity

Cognac eau-de-vie is one of the most prestigious and well-known eau-de-vie in the world
Its access to fame begins during the Antiquity. The Charente region was allowed to plant vineyards under the short reign of the roman emperor Probus who abolished an edict forbidding winegrowing in the region. Indeed, former emperors considered Gaulle’s wines as too competitive for roman wines.

The Development of Flemish Trade

As the region explores its potential by seeking the best locations for vineyards according to soils and climates, it also enhances its trade routes. From the Middle-Ages, Flemings establish the trade of salt and paper which they export from the region. At the same time, they bring wines from areas surrounding Cognac, the major trade pole in Charente, to northern Europe. Those wines were particularly well appreciated by wealthy families.
Facing a constant growing demand, Flemish merchants introduce distillation to reduce volumes and transport costs of the exported wines. This burning process turns the wine into brandewijn (later called brandy) and was also used to preserve the quality of the carried wines. The local population acquires this method and wines are directly distilled in the Charente region. During the 17th century, the double distillation was invented and became a Cognac specialty. The ageing in oak barrels and the blending are part of an in-depth know how. It is the kind of expertise inherent to all luxury products.

A prestigious eau-de-vie

As the centuries passed, natural, political and economic changes strengthened the knowledge and process of Cognac production. It thus became not only one of the finest eau-de-vie able to please the most demanding experts thanks to its complexity and its flavor; but also an ambassador of its own history, from the conception methods to the final blend and the distinguished people who used to appreciate it.

 

Cognac

Cognac, one of the world’s finest spirits

Cognac has often been referred as “the drink of the gods”. The first written record of Cognac production, dating back to the 17th century, mentions a certain Chevalier de la Croix Marron in Brée-en-Charente, who succeeded in capturing the very soul of wine by redistilling an already distilled wine. Aged in oak barrels in the cool half-light of Charentais cellars, this double-distilled spirit became hugely successful around the world. Oak ageing not only contributes tannin, but also enables Cognac to “breathe” through the pores in the wood and take on a beautiful amber color. Making fine Cognac is more of an art than a technique, and each distiller adapts to the quality and origin of the wine.
Going back to Cognac’s earliest history, and with surprisingly few changes through the years, every producer uses the same equipment: a copper pot still consisting of a boiler, an onion-shaped still head with a swan’s head connected to a cooler and condensing coil via a long pipe. The première chauffe, or first distillation, lasts for eight hours and produces a cloudy liquid known as brouillis. This substance is put back into the boiler for the second distillation, or bonne chauffe, which lasts over 12 hours. The Cognac producer’s art lies in knowing just when to eliminate the distillation “head” and “tails” to retain only the “heart”, which alone gives Cognac its inimitable aroma and flavor.

Roman Antiquity

Cognac eau-de-vie is one of the most prestigious and well-known eau-de-vie in the world
Its access to fame begins during the Antiquity. The Charente region was allowed to plant vineyards under the short reign of the roman emperor Probus who abolished an edict forbidding winegrowing in the region. Indeed, former emperors considered Gaulle’s wines as too competitive for roman wines.

The Development of Flemish Trade

As the region explores its potential by seeking the best locations for vineyards according to soils and climates, it also enhances its trade routes. From the Middle-Ages, Flemings establish the trade of salt and paper which they export from the region. At the same time, they bring wines from areas surrounding Cognac, the major trade pole in Charente, to northern Europe. Those wines were particularly well appreciated by wealthy families.
Facing a constant growing demand, Flemish merchants introduce distillation to reduce volumes and transport costs of the exported wines. This burning process turns the wine into brandewijn (later called brandy) and was also used to preserve the quality of the carried wines. The local population acquires this method and wines are directly distilled in the Charente region. During the 17th century, the double distillation was invented and became a Cognac specialty. The ageing in oak barrels and the blending are part of an in-depth know how. It is the kind of expertise inherent to all luxury products.

A prestigious eau-de-vie

As the centuries passed, natural, political and economic changes strengthened the knowledge and process of Cognac production. It thus became not only one of the finest eau-de-vie able to please the most demanding experts thanks to its complexity and its flavor; but also an ambassador of its own history, from the conception methods to the final blend and the distinguished people who used to appreciate it.

 

Pineau

Pineau, a great mistelle

Pineau des Charentes is a mistelle, i.e. a beverage made by adding grape spirit to sweet, unfermented grape juice, which stops fermentation. According to legend, Pineau des Charentes was born in the 16th century when a winegrower added grape must to a barrel of Cognac by mistake. When he saw what he had done, and noticed that the wine had stopped fermenting, he left the mixture in the barrel and forgot about it. When he went back to it several years later, he was amazed to see that it had turned into a delicious sweet wine: the first Pineau was born.

Pineau des Charentes is still made by blending grape juice with Cognac (one year old or more) in oak barrels. This can only be done at vintage time. The quality of the Cognac is important, because this is what will have the greatest impact on overall quality. The Pineau is stirred every day for a week or longer to obtain a perfectly homogenous blend. Long ageing in oak barrels makes Pineau soft and aromatic…

Since 1945, the Controlled Appellation of Origin of the Pineau des Charentes is protected by a decree. The AOC imposes rules regarding the origin, the fabrication, the ageing and other aspects of the Pineau production. This quality control combined with Unicognac SA know-how are guarantees of a high-valued Pineau.

 

Pineau

Pineau, a great mistelle

Pineau des Charentes is a mistelle, i.e. a beverage made by adding grape spirit to sweet, unfermented grape juice, which stops fermentation. According to legend, Pineau des Charentes was born in the 16th century when a winegrower added grape must to a barrel of Cognac by mistake. When he saw what he had done, and noticed that the wine had stopped fermenting, he left the mixture in the barrel and forgot about it. When he went back to it several years later, he was amazed to see that it had turned into a delicious sweet wine: the first Pineau was born.

Pineau des Charentes is still made by blending grape juice with Cognac (one year old or more) in oak barrels. This can only be done at vintage time. The quality of the Cognac is important, because this is what will have the greatest impact on overall quality. The Pineau is stirred every day for a week or longer to obtain a perfectly homogenous blend. Long ageing in oak barrels makes Pineau soft and aromatic…

Since 1945, the Controlled Appellation of Origin of the Pineau des Charentes is protected by a decree. The AOC imposes rules regarding the origin, the fabrication, the ageing and other aspects of the Pineau production. This quality control combined with Unicognac SA know-how are guarantees of a high-valued Pineau.

 

Tasting

Wines and spirits are among the oldest, most traditional beverages produced by man. However, the pleasure derived from tasting them has often been a subject of controversy. Without going into detailed tasting analysis techniques or chemistry, let us concentrate on the basic guidelines that allow everyone to appreciate the taste of the various products bottled by UNICOGNAC SA
Traditionally, there are three steps in assessing a wine, Pineau de Charentes or Cognac:

Appearance

The beverage should be served in an appropriate glass, in a room with sufficient light, and swirled in the glass. This makes it possible to assess the product’s clarity (to see if it is cloudy or has any sediment), its depth of color and its legs (an indication of richness, sweetness, and fluidity).

Smell

Products should be smelled in two stages: before and after swirling in the glass. This swirling motion introduces oxygen and increases the product’s aromatic intensity, making it possible to judge the concentration, overall quality, and character (dominant aromas accounting for its personality) of the bouquet.

Taste

This calls for assessing the same three qualities cited above (for smell) once the beverage has come into contact with the palate. However, two more aspects come into play with regard to flavour: fluidity and length of the aftertaste
Once the product has been visually appraised, smelled, and tasted, its overall balance can be evaluated, i.e. observing how the various sensory components mesh and fit together. These reflect the product’s quality, origin, and production methods.
Of course, aromas vary according to product. Pineau des Charentes has a fruity bouquet (ripe peaches and candied apricots for white Pineau, cherries and forest fruit aromas for rosé Pineau), whereas Cognac tends to have oaky, vanilla aromas (whose intensity depends on the age of the barrels and the length of ageing), with hints of cinnamon, rancio, and chocolate, depending on the grape varieties. As for tasting wines, several books would not suffice to list all the accepted tasting terms and descriptions… However, when all is said and done, people tend to fall back on their personal, subjective appreciation – which is why we invite you to discover our range of vins de terroir for yourself to see which you enjoy most.

 

Tasting

Wines and spirits are among the oldest, most traditional beverages produced by man. However, the pleasure derived from tasting them has often been a subject of controversy. Without going into detailed tasting analysis techniques or chemistry, let us concentrate on the basic guidelines that allow everyone to appreciate the taste of the various products bottled by UNICOGNAC SA
Traditionally, there are three steps in assessing a wine, Pineau de Charentes or Cognac:

Appearance

The beverage should be served in an appropriate glass, in a room with sufficient light, and swirled in the glass. This makes it possible to assess the product’s clarity (to see if it is cloudy or has any sediment), its depth of color and its legs (an indication of richness, sweetness, and fluidity).

Smell

Products should be smelled in two stages: before and after swirling in the glass. This swirling motion introduces oxygen and increases the product’s aromatic intensity, making it possible to judge the concentration, overall quality, and character (dominant aromas accounting for its personality) of the bouquet.

Taste

This calls for assessing the same three qualities cited above (for smell) once the beverage has come into contact with the palate. However, two more aspects come into play with regard to flavour: fluidity and length of the aftertaste
Once the product has been visually appraised, smelled, and tasted, its overall balance can be evaluated, i.e. observing how the various sensory components mesh and fit together. These reflect the product’s quality, origin, and production methods.
Of course, aromas vary according to product. Pineau des Charentes has a fruity bouquet (ripe peaches and candied apricots for white Pineau, cherries and forest fruit aromas for rosé Pineau), whereas Cognac tends to have oaky, vanilla aromas (whose intensity depends on the age of the barrels and the length of ageing), with hints of cinnamon, rancio, and chocolate, depending on the grape varieties. As for tasting wines, several books would not suffice to list all the accepted tasting terms and descriptions… However, when all is said and done, people tend to fall back on their personal, subjective appreciation – which is why we invite you to discover our range of vins de terroir for yourself to see which you enjoy most.