Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cognac the Town, and Visiting Cognac and Tasting the Product. Cognac IV.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated November 2019.

A night view of Cognac across the River Charente.
Planning a trip to Cognac
and tasting the product.
Many people, myself included, have visited Cognac on day trips while staying elsewhere; others prefer a single two-day visit with an overnight stay. Other visitors make the town of Cognac a base for their whole vacation with daily excursions to areas of interest outside the town of Cognac. You may plan a vacation that will suit all ages and still allow a one or two days in and around the town Cognac.
The grape-growing region of Cognac set within the French departments of Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres and Vienne and part of the department of Dordogne. (Since 1-1-2016 Poitou-Charentes is part of the new Super Region of Nouvelle Aquitaine). From anywhere in these departments and nearby cities like Bordeaux and Limoges, you can easily reach Cognac.
Map of the Cognac region with Bordeaux to the south.
Google Maps©
Paris to Cognac: 400 km (250 miles) By car about 5 hours without stopping; not recommended as you miss some great places to visit along the way. A train from the Paris Montparnasse station takes three and a half hours with one change. The train from CDG airport Pairs to Cognac is a four and a quarter-hour trip with one change. If you are driving, there are many great places and reasons to stop and make it a two-day slow drive to Cognac. The most direct route is the E5 with optional stops at Orleans, Tours or Poitiers. For those choosing the roads less traveled, then driving via the city of Le Mans, so famous for its 24-hour car race as well as its automobile museum, and of course, the longest go-kart track in the world; the trip via Le Mans adds just one hour to the drive.
Angouleme to Cognac:  47kms (30 miles). Twenty minutes by road or twenty minutes by train from Angouleme station. Angouleme is a pretty town and famous both for its cathedral and for its international comics festival, so there is plenty for all. Angouleme also has the nearest airport to the town of Cognac. For English history buffs, Angouleme was the birthplace of an English Queen, Isabella of Angoulême (1188 -1246), the second wife of King John. King John became king in 1199 after the death, in  France, of his brother Richard the Lion Heart. Richard is, or rather was, buried in Fontevraud Abbey, near Chinon; that is a 165 km (100 miles), about a two and a half-hour drive from Cognac.
Bordeaux to Cognac: 120kms (75 miles). About 1 hour and 30 minutes by car, two hours by train with one or two changes. The old city of Bordeaux is a World Heritage site, and it is a beautiful city for strolling. From Bordeaux, there are wine routes to the various wine appellations with maps available at the tourist offices; there are also daily bus excursions to the wine country, with tastings, and all can be booked locally.
La Rochelle to Cognac: 105 km (65 miles). About 1 hour and 15 minutes by car. The train takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes direct. La Rochelle is a beautiful and historic town with much to see, and it is equally famous for its seafood and fish restaurants. From La Rochelle, it is a 15 minute trip to the island of Île de Ré via a 3-kilometer bridge. The Île de Ré is one of the most popular vacation spots for the French; wonderful beaches, wonderful restaurants, and the vineyards that are the source of some of the Cognac House Camus’s exclusive Cognacs. 
Limoges (in Limousine) to Cognac: 148 km (92 miles). Two hours by car. No direct trains. Limoges is the home of porcelain and its Musée National Adrien Dubouché is the national porcelain museum.
Poitiers to Cognac: 158kms (98 miles). About two hours by car. The train is 1 ½ hour direct. Poitiers is a University city and it is a lovely walkable city full of cafés and restaurants.

Royan - Cognac:  66 km 41miles). About 1 hour and 15 minutes by car. By train one hour direct. Royan is famous for its Atlantic coast beaches that spread out for kilometers on either side of the town. The beaches include both public and private beaches.

Some like ice in their Cognac.
Before leaving home.

Or failing that as soon as possible, look up the following web sites:
The Tourist office of Cognac
Help with planning booking hotels, Cognac tours, car rental, and side-trips.,
Les Étapes du Cognac.
The Étapes du Cognac website is run by over fifty companies that promote all things about Cognac and are based in the town. They offer help with hotels as well as help with booking visits and tasting tours to over 130 Cognac houses.  

With the help of the tourist office and Les Étapes du Cognac, you may plan your own trips or book a guided tour as well as which, when and where to visit a Cognac House or Houses.
If you prefer to be guided and there is much to be said for that when time is limited look at the following sites. They are run by companies that offer a variety of services that include collecting you from the train station or hotel and arranging unique and different visits to place of interest from farmers’ markets to historical sites apart from Cognac Houses. I have not traveled or worked with any of these companies; however. I have only heard good reports.
Cognac and wine tours.
Cognac tasting tours
Cognac and wine tours

Cognac buying and tasting tours

When to visit Cognac Houses.
Whether making your own plans or considering a guided tour, make yourself aware of the opening hours and the days when museums, restaurants, and Cognac Houses are closed.  
Wherever you travel in France with the exception of the Eiffel Tower nothing is open every day of the year. Quite a number of Cognac houses are not open in the winter and many close for lunch even at the height of the tourist season. The prices for visiting and tasting also vary considerably. Some permit visits to their vineyards without charge; others, a few,  make no charge for tastings. Others have multi-tier prices for visits, tastings and specialized visits that may also include lunch and or dinner on the premises.
Apart from Cognac most of the Cognac Houses also produce the region’s most popular aperitif, Pineau de Charentes.  For more about this special aperitif see the post:
Pineau de Charentes; the Aperitif of France’s Cognac region.
Les Étapes du Cognac’s web site connects you to the sites of some 130 plus Cognac Houses. Most of these sites have English language pages reached by clicking on the appropriate flag.

Camus. Established 1863,
2 place du Château, 16200 Jarnac
Tél : +33 5 45 32 72 96
Fax: +33 5 45 80 59 65
Email :

The  Camus Île de Ré  range of Cognacs.
These Cognacs come from grapes grown on the island of Île de Ré; 
the island is connected to the town of La Rochelle by a bridge.    

Photograph courtesy of Camus.

Camus’s House is set near the village of Jarnec 16kms (10 miles) or twenty minutes outside Cognac by car. Camus has a unique Cognac made from grapes grown and distilled on the island of Île de Ré These special Cognacs are brought to Camus’s cellars in the village of Jarnec for aging and blending.
Camus is also the only Cognac ever to have had a “Royal Warrant “ from one of the Napoleon’s. Despite the 150 years that have passed since then Camus still calls itself the home of Napoleon's cognac.
Cognac Bertrand, Domaine des Brissons De Laage.
Established 1731.
17500 REAUX
Tél : 05 46 48 09 03
Port : 06 33 72 21 07

Cognac Bertrand XO Petite Fine Champagne.
Photograph Courtesy of Cognac Bertrand.
Cognac Bertrand is 25 minutes by car from Cognac; this is one of the smaller Cognac houses, but one with a very long history, and a visit that should not be missed.  The larger houses are, often, Cognac versions of Universal Film Studio tours. Smaller houses like Bertrand may lack some of the dazzles but they also offer a view of Cognac production that is much more personal and less guided. At Cognac Bertrand you are not timed,  you may ask questions and also wander around their vineyards and more.
Of special interest at Cognac Bertrand: When I last checked the visits and the tastings at Bertrand were free
Established in 1765.
1, rue de la Richonne
16100 COGNAC
Tél : 05 45 35 72 68
Fax : 05 45 35 79 49

Hennessey was established by an Irishman, Richard Hennessey. Hennessey had been a soldier in the Irish forces of King Louis XV who fought the English, and upon being discharged he settled in the area of Cognac.   Hennessey’s Cognac House has since become the largest single Cognac producer in the world, and today Hennessy is part of LVMH Louis Vuitton.
Hennessy buys most of the grapes they use as their art is in the aging and blending of Cognac, and of course its merchandising.  
Established in 1765
Thomas HINE & C°
16 Quai de l'Orangerie,
16200 Jarnac
Tel: +33 (0) 5 45 35 59 49
Photograph courtesy of HINE.
Photographer Gilles de Beauchêne
Hine was founded by Thomas Hine, the son of a Dorset, England, farmer, who was sent to France, at age 16, to learn about Cognac.  Thomas married the daughter of an important Cognac merchant and would later change the name of the company to HINE.
HINE, with its English history, today holds a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II of England for the supply of Cognac.
Hine is also unique with its Early Landed Grande Champagne cognacs. Hine still ships some Cognac to the UK in barrels. (Only in the late 19th century with the creation of bottle making machinery was Cognac shipped in bottles).  Today Hine ships, every year, about 100 barrels of these special Cognacs to Bristol in Wales; each barrel holds about enough Cognac for 350 750cl bottles; this special Cognac is then bottled in the UK.
The reasons for shipping the Cognac in barrels are not only tradition and the accompanying publicity.  In Bristol, the aging conditions are very different from those of Jarnac.  The temperature is lower and remains between 8 and 12°C; HINE claims that the temperature along with a high humidity produces a Cognac with a light and fruity taste.

Martell. Established 1715.
7 Place Édouard Martell, Cognac
Phone : +33 5 45 36 33 33
Cogaxc  16100
Phone : +33 5 45 36 33 33
Martell XO Reflection Cognac.
Photograph courtesy of Martell.
Founded by the Martell family from the Island of Jersey,  the Channel Islands. These islands, between England and France, were brought to England by William the Conqueror and have officially been part of Britain since 1295. The Martell family had been trading with France for many years and then a son Jean Martell started a merchant’s business in Cognac along the River Charente.  Today Martell is the oldest of the Grand Cognac houses.
Rémy Martin.  
Established in 1731
20, Rue de la Société Vinicole - 16100 COGNAC

Le Domaine Rémy Martin.
Avenue de Gimeux,
16100 Merpins
E-mails for visits:
Phone + 33 5 45 35 76 66
Merpins is just outside Cognac, a 15-minute drive from the center. Rémy Martin is unique in that apart from offering a one-hour tour they also offer a 4-hour visit that includes lunch prepared by their chef; you may dine for a contribution of €180.00 per person.   Rémy also offers the widest range of tours including a day’s course on blending Cognac and full-day visits with lunch and dinner as well.


Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014, 2017, 2019

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Bordeaux and Bordelaise on the Menu, and Bordeaux AOC Wines on the Wine-List.

Pineau de Charentes; the Aperitif of France’s Cognac region. Cognac III.


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