Take one of these tours when you’re next in France and brush up on your cognac savoir-faire

You know what they say – all cognacs are brandies, but not all brandies are cognac. 

No surprise, then, that the producers of this prized amber elixir, made from 75,000 hectares of vineyards around the town of Cognac, are working hard to have their brandy-making know-how added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Their application cites the lengthy history of its production and the skills and knowledge that go alongside it. Intrigued? Why not head over to the Charente département on your very own fact-finding mission? 

According to the local tourist board: “Making cognac is a complex and subtle process that requires passion, demanding standards and knowledge passed down over generations. The precise characteristics of the soil in which the vines are growing, the quality of the oak used to make the barrels in which the cognac is aged, the double distillation in a red copper still, the experience and talent of the master blender who mixes the different ‘eaux-de-vie’; all these are important factors in creating the flavour and balance of a cognac.” 

Brandy

You can find out more on a visit to the historic town of Cognac, which is on the Charente river, between Saintes and Angoulême. Home to a veritable who’s who of cognac producers − Baron Otard, Camus, Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, Meukow, Rémy Martin… – you will find tastings and tours at every turn. 

New for 2020, Courvoisier has teamed up with Culture Cafés, their local coffee maestros, to offer visitors a new way to discover the town and taste the world-famous brandy. The Café Courvoisier experience pairs their VSOP and XO cognacs with coffee and chocolates: the VSOP is paired with a blend of mocha from Ethiopia with a hint of Colombia whilst a rich Catuai Bourbon from Salvador is paired with XO. The coffee experience can be added to Courvoisier’s Classic Tour (€22 total), or it is included with its new premium tour, Brunch at the Château (€150). Check out the Courvoisier website for more details. 

Meanwhile, over at the historic Rémy Martin château in the centre of Cognac, a new tasting workshop has been launched to teach would-be mixologists and cocktail-lovers some imaginative cognac-based cocktails. The experience starts with a visit of the historic house and its cellars and, of course, a tasting of the Rémy Martin cognacs. Then, a Rémy Martin expert will provide an introduction to the art of the cocktail before you are let loose with the shaker to create your own concoction (gourmet snacks are included to soak up all that booze!). The two-hour experience costs €110 per person and must be booked in advance. 

Check out the Cognac tourist office for a full list of events and experiences on offer. For more on the campaign to add Cognac to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, visit Facebook/lesavoirfaireducognac. 

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