Come and have a Petit Cognac at home. There will be no Gillou and his little accordion but relies on the bottles, the friends and certainly the songs. Let's head for the town of Cognac, a small town in southwestern France and sub-prefecture of the Charente department, to learn a little more about this mysterious beverage. Come with me to the Bache-Gabrielsen Cognac cellars to discover all the secrets of this illustrious house.
Cognac, a little-known beverage
When you think of the southwest, you immediately think of a good bottle of red wine "made in" Bordeaux. It is difficult to live with the star of the stars, especially when you live in the same region. But Cognac knows how to defend itself. Better still, he has a city to himself: the one that gave him birth and his name. A cute Charente town, Cognac has even been awarded the "Ville d'art et d'histoire" label by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Just that.
There is no competition between the two drinks, since one will give birth to the other. Very different, they each have their own aficionados and their own favourite time. If the wine is difficult to remove from the tables (hop a rhyme), Cognac gets its pin out of the glass during the aperitif.
As one is never better served than by oneself (except when it is the bartender), I decide to go and see on the spot to have a clear heart (and palate). Meet the Bache Gabrielson team to learn all about Cognac. First step: the distillery with which the company works.
During the visit, I learn that it is a brandy made from wine. Did you know that? (I don't). Just after the harvest, the grapes are pressed and the must is fermented. Total prohibition to add sugar. 5 to 7 days later, we obtain a wine with low alcohol content (8° to 11°) that is not very tasty and bears the pleasant name of "vin de chaudière". It will be necessary to carry out a double distillation and ageing in oak barrels to transform the juice into Cognac.
Since 1938, Cognac has been made up of different vintages, defined by a controlled appellation zone, based on the characteristics of the soil: ordinary wood, good wood, fine wood, borderies, Petites Champagne and Grande Champagne (the 1st vintage).
The second stage of my apprenticeship: the warehouse composed of 3400 oak barrels, or the trifle of 2 million bottles. If the drink is well hidden behind the barrels, the scents quickly took me to a state close to the aperitif.
Closed to the general public, the distilleries open their doors wide as part of the "Distilleries en fête" operation, which is being held until next April. All the information at the end of this article.
In the footsteps of Bache-Gabrielsen Cognac
The discovery continues in the heart of the city, in the lair of the Bache-Gabrielsen headquarters. From the outside, there is no indication that this town house houses one of the most famous houses in Norway, except for a rather discreet plaque. Created in 1905, it is now managed by the 4th generation of the family of the same name. The great-grandfather, you know.
When you push the door in, you would almost expect to see the great-grandfather in the Charente, with a bottle in his hand. Upstairs, a lounge-cabinet of curiosities shows us the face of the successive bosses of this family empire. In a semi-detached office, we get to know the Nose of the company. Master of blends since 1989, Jean-Philippe Bergier explains what his job is like in an office filled with hundreds (and hundreds) of bottles. Like a perfumer, man creates "fragances" of Cognac which will then be marketed.
A few minutes later, in the basement, in a superb room dedicated to tasting, a surprise question was asked. Armed with a doser, I will have to create my own Cognac by mixing 4 of the 6 crus (see the previous paragraph if you have not learned the lesson). An hour later, my mixing is finished. I'm not a little proud, but there's still work to be done to get hired and take Jean-Philippe's place (#fail).
Me, Solène, bartender
Now that I have designed a future grand cru (or not), it is time to learn how to mix it with the best flavours. Heading to the Louise bar for a short cocktail class. Very patient, the bartender teaches us to prepare blends based on (I give it to you in a thousand) Cognac. For you, the public, here is the recipe for Sazerac to impress your friends at the next party.
Fill your old fashioned glass with a mountain of ice cubes to refresh it. Remove the ice cubes. Add 1 cl of absinthe, turn it in the glass and then empty the contents into your sink (yes, you read it right). Add 4 drops of angostura bitters, 1 cl of cane sugar syrup, 6 cl of Cognac and finish with a lemon zest. Taste with moderation.
The evening continues in a bar in the city centre. I trade my barmaid costume for that of a customer (after the effort...), in order to test other local creations. The evening continues under the stars (or rather the star) of the restaurant La Ribaudière. After a gargantuan meal, the day will end with a short digestive walk through the maze paved with a beautiful city. There's no need to say, Cognac has the Coco (gnac) look!
***The (good) addresses***
To go there:
All trains lead to Cognac but from 2h45 to 5h (!) from Paris, with a change at Angoulême.
To get more information:
Cognac Tourist Office: 16 Rue du 14 Juillet, Tel: 05 45 82 10 71.
To make the fuss:
Distillery in celebration: Tel: 05 45 36 47 35.
To discover the city:
So visit the distilleries, stroll around the city, go to the market on Sunday mornings, go in search of the funniest sign in the world (see below).
So that your nights are gentle (RIP Johnny):
Hôtel Héritage (25 Rue d'Angoulême, Tel: 05 45 82 82 01 26): a small, unpretentious hotel located in a period building. Equipped with 19 different rooms, the establishment had the good idea to choose a home in the heart of the city centre. We like the decoration in the common areas.
To lift the elbow....
- During the day >> Bar Louise (Hôtel François 1er, 1 Place François 1er, Tel.: 05 45 80 80 80 80 80).
- At night >> Bar la Luciole (14 Place du Solencon, Tel.: 05 45 81 70 11).
So that your belly skin is tight:
- Le Coq d'Or (33 Place François 1er): a simple brewery at fair prices. Don't hesitate to try one of the specialities: oyster sausages (yes, you read it right).
- La Ribaudière (2 Place du Port, 16200 Bourg-Charente, Tel: 05 45 81 30 54): a starred restaurant to test if your finances allow it. A delight for the taste buds as well as for your pupils, the dishes being as beautiful as they are good. Among the wonders to taste, let's mention the "Velouté de girolles, organic poached egg, sheep's volume and bigorre ham 24 months" or the "Quenelle de pike, crayfish sauce and pike caviar".
Source : solcito.fr