Before setting out on my first visit to Cognac, I knew that the region had plenty to offer those with a passion for fine food, history and – of course – spirits. I certainly didn't expect the explosion of flavours that I encountered during my trip to the Charentes region!
I grew up in the South West of France, and studied and then worked in Bordeaux as an oenologist for several years. But it was only when I was on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, that I realised what I had been missing out on in my own back yard. I had no plans to visit Cognac until I discovered the international reach of its world renowned spirit. Returning to my home country, I decided to make amends.
And so, 15 years after living in the Gironde region, I finally got my chance to explore Cognac’s back roads and vineyards...
Although expectations were high, I didn’t count on the sheer number of surprises and discoveries I encountered throughout my trip. It was as if Cognac had been preparing for my visit all these years! But in reality, the people of Cognac are past masters at welcoming visitors keen to learn about and taste the local culture and produce. All of Cognac’s most celebrated Great Houses, including Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Camus, Martell and Courvoisier, offer a surprising array of visits and tastings that could teach the world of wine a thing or two. Even many of the smaller, independent producers, are keen to share their passion for their terroir and their distillers’ know-how.
But the greatest revelation was, for me, how well cognac pairs with certain foods.
I had no idea that cognac was such a good match for a wide variety of dishes, shellfish, fish and meat, and not just desserts.
More than just a digestif, cognac plays a leading role in fine dining.
The different styles of eaux-de-vie, from the youngest such as V.S. to the more elaborate and intense such as X.O., are used to flavour the region’s deliciously prepared local ingredients, as I discovered at the stunning Château Royal de Cognac, and the delightful brasserie at Chais Monnet, Cognac’s brand new 5-star hotel.
Take a sip of cognac after sampling ‘Grilled scallops on a bed of delicate potato soup’, or after a spoonful of ‘crispy cabbages on a bed of green mango and a smooth passion fruit cream’, and the already exquisite flavours enter a new dimension, filled with sweet spices, honey, dried fruits and exotic fragrances.
Tastes and associations that fill the mind with countless possible combinations...
Cognac’s restaurants, distilleries and cocktail bars make the most of the region’s famous spirit, successfully sharing it with the region’s lucky visitors.
Read the full story on my blog Social Vignerons