MARKETING/DESIGN/CONSUMER TRENDS/INSPIRATIONS Cognac & Brandy News for Consumers & Industry Experts
When making cognac there are 4 school of thoughts or concepts.
1. Cognac is an Assemblage or Cognac is a ‘House Style’: the concept is that cognac is a drinkable perfume hence the blending is necessary to achieve the best formula. And this formula becomes the House’s style that is consistent year after year. Again it’s like a perfume! The majority of cognac is labelled “Appellation Cognac” or just “Cognac”, that does not mean the cognacs with a specific geographic location within the Cognac region are better. It all about choices, having choices and knowing really what you have for judging it for what it is really supposed to be.
2. Cognac is a Terroir: this philosophy is to represent a stereotype exemplifying a terroir profile – typicity is the keyword. They are 6 terroirs, 5 with an appellation, plus one assemblage which is authorized under a specific appellation, namely Fine Champagne which needs to include at least 50% of Grande Champagne and the remaining in Petite Champagne. This philosophy is very French in nature, wine-related, and driven by “marketing” sometimes. Consequently, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne do not make automatically better cognacs. These 2 terroirs have characteristics which makes them better in general for very old cognacs – that is true!
I am presenting these terroirs also called crus in alphabetical order because they should be no ranking of terroirs but rather understanding of the differences between these terroirs is what matters. Like saying the wine terroirs are France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, USA, Chile, Australia, … a ranking of France against Chile for instance would make no sense to people who know about wines. Ranking of Cognac terroirs make no sense to people who know about cognacs.
Bois Ordinaires (not an appellation, cognacs made in this terroir have the appellation of Cognac only)
Bons Bois (i.e., appellation)
Borderies (i.e., appellation)
Fins Bois (i.e., appellation)
Grande Champagne (i.e., appellation)
Petite Champagne (i.e., appellation)
+ 1 appellation not related to a terroir/geographical location but a blend = Fine Champagne
3. Cognac is a Brand: often times marketing is 50% or more of the success of a company and this philosophy drives the concept of cognac as a brand, where consumers do not really drink cognac but brand X.
4. Cognac is an Estate and/or a Vintage: this concept is closer to the wine world where producers try to keep the uniqueness of the spirit which differs from year to year. The grapes harvested a specific year must be distilled that year production and consequently if not blended are making “vintage-like” cognacs. Vintage cognacs in general are very rare which makes them more expensive. They are not more expensive because they are better but again because they are more rare. Vintage and Estate cognacs are fun and exiting but not really “cognac-like” but oddities. This fourth concept is much more “armagnac-like”. Domaine and/or Estate cognacs are also not assembled from the ‘best’ blends available but from the blends only coming from the specific location and/or owner which makes it much more unique and limited. However, the singularity of cognac is the excellence of the product from the ‘savoir faire’, i.e., ‘know how’ of the master cellar to manipulate thousands of blends to achieve the ‘most’ perfect balance. A ‘most’ perfect balance coming from a single vineyard, or Estate, or Vintage, … is less likely to be achieved.
Perfection I believe is most likely to be achieved by the freedom of the sourcing of the cognac blends and the liberty in composing. Width of sourcing and authenticity is critical in achieving an outstanding cognac.