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France, Cognac

Wine is being produced throughout France and has been done for over 2,500 years with certain Châteaux dating their history back to Roman times, around 6th Century BC. Ranking second in the world in per-capita consumption and first in total production quantity. More-so than the overall quantity of wine is the quantity of truly great wines coming out of France makes the nation the envy of wine-making nations worldwide.

Two concepts pivotal to the higher end French wines, in particular, are the idea of 'terroir' and the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Terroir refers to the way the geography, geology and climate find their way into the glass, telling a story of the origin of the wine. The AOC was set up in 1935 and has the primary goal of protecting the authenticity of the wines and the livelihoods of the producers. Appellation rules strictly define which varieties of grapes and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or in some cases, like in Burgundy even specific vineyards.

Classic wine regions in France include Champagne (home of Champagne), Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot), Alsace (Aromatic varietals), Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Crémant) and the Rhône Valley (Syrah, Grenache Mourvedre)

The Bordeaux classification of 1855 is still in use, as is the Sauternes and Barsac Classification of the same year. Wines from certain regions can be bought En Primeur, which is when the wine is sold prior to it being bottled.
Cognac is named after the town of Cognac in France and is a variety of brandy. It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name. Ugni Blanc, which is known locally as Saint-Emilion, is the one most commonly used grape to produce Cognac. The region is divided in to six zones, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Bordeies, Fins Bois, Bon Bois and lastly Bois Ordinaire, not to be confused with Champagne, the premier sparkling wine region in north east France.

Strict guidelines must be followed for a distilled brandy to be legally labelled as a Cognac by the Appellation d’origine contrôlée. Only specific grapes are allowed to be used, of which Ugni Blanc is the most common. The brandy must be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged for a minimum of 24 months in French oak barrels from Limousis or Tronçais.

Blending is very common in Cognacs, and the age is derived from the age of the youngest grapes used in the blend. Cognacs develop and age in a similar way to Scotch Whiskies, though most Cognacs can age much longer than the legal requirement due to the time spent in the French oak barrels.
You might also like to view our wide range of Armagnacs
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