Cheers-Nov-Dec 2016

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Page 32 of 63 33 November/December 2016 • ON THE ROAD France The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) held its annual La Part des Ange (angels' share) charity auction of fine Cognacs in September in Cognac, France. The BNIC hosted several journalists to experience the auction and tour some Cognac houses to learn more about the spirit. Cognac, which is made by distilling wine, and then aging it in wood barrels, must be produced in the Cognac geo- graphic region of western France. The area, located 300 miles southwest of Paris and just north of Bordeaux, is divided into six regions or crus: Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne (not to be confused with France's northeastern region of Champagne known for its sparkling wine), Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires. The regions result in spirits with different textures and aging capability, but the most popular areas for Cognac grapes are Grand Champagne, Petit Champagne and Borderies. The chalky soil of these regions produces acidic grapes, which is important in Cognac production. Cognac can be made from the permitted white grapes including ugni blanc, folle blanche and colombard. But most—about 98% —is made with ugni blanc, which is the trebbiano grape from Italy. "Ugni blanc is not really used for wine; it's very acidic and more valuable to be used for Cognac," says Damien Bertrand, commercial and mar- keting director for Domaine Boinaud, which produces J. Dupont & Deluze Cognac brands. Cognac must be distilled twice, using copper pot stills; the resulting eau de vie must be aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years. V.S. Cognac, also known as Very Special, is aged for at least two years; V.S.O.P. (Very Special Old Pale or Reserve) ages for a minimum of four years; and X.O. (Extra Old or Hors d'Age) is aged for a minimum of six years. By April 2018, X.O. will indicate a minimum age of 10 years, and the Napoleon classification will be added to indicate a minimum age of six years. UNIQUE TERROIR, PRIME LOCATION "Quality starts in the vineyard," says Per Even Allaire, deputy commercial director for Hine, which produces the Hine Rare VSOP, Hine Vintages and Early Landed Cognacs. Founded in 1763, the Hine Estate includes 297 acres in the Grand Champagne cru; the company is known for its single vintages. For certain, "A great spirit is the product of its terroir," says Alexandre Gabriel, president of Maison Ferrand, A PRE-HARVEST VISIT TO THE HEART OF COGNAC By Melissa Dowling Alexandre Gabriel, president of Maison Ferrand, in the vineyard. The Hine chateau on the Charente River in Jarnac, Cognac. Vintage bottles in the cellar at Courvoisier.

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