Visit the houses of Cognac: a Charentaise experience to live!

Chermignac
Visit the houses of C ...

Renowned throughout the world, its vineyard extends its green vines over the hilly terrain of Charente-Maritime and Charente. On these ancestral lands grow white grapes whose wine, double distilled and aged in oak barrels, gives life to an elixir with a wonderful amber color. It is eaten neat, "on the rocks" but can also be enjoyed in cocktails... It is of course cognac! Nothing like a stay in the Cognac vineyard to discover the thousand facets of this spirit. Here, winegrowers, small producers and renowned Cognac houses open the doors of their properties to reveal their manufacturing secrets and their know-how. Head to the village of Chermignac in Saintonge to meet the Vallein Tercinier family, cognac producers since 1850!


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

The Cognac vineyard, an exceptional terroir

Rigorously delimited by decree since 1909, the cognac production area is covered by 80,000 hectares of vines made up essentially of the Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche grape varieties. This relatively large vineyard is not limited to the area around the town of Cognac and includes several thousand cognac farms and factories between Charente, Charente-Maritime (including the islands of Ré and Oléron ) and a few municipalities of Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres. Became an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in 1936, it is distinguished by different crus divided into 6 geographical appellations: Grande and Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires.

The good idea: To consult our selection of wine and Cognac producers, visit our section.


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier


Cognac: a fascinating history

The limestone soils of Charente were already conducive to wine production in antiquity. Inherited from the Romans, the vineyards of Aunis and Angoumois produced wines appreciated by the English, the Dutch and the Scandinavians. As these wines suffered from long sea voyages, distillation was introduced in the 15th century by the Dutch. Merchants thus imported eau-de-vie, which, when added with water, took the name of "brandwijn" (burnt wine), or even "brandy". Three centuries later, the people of Charente invented the double distillation process by modifying copper stills. They further enhanced their eaux-de-vie through aging in oak barrels. A spirit with subtle flavors was born: cognac. Thanks to the Charente river, which was conducive to trade, barges loaded with barrels of cognac descended the estuary to La Rochelle, where they were embarked on sailboats heading for the Nordic countries. Thus, after the salt trade, wine brandy is one of the pillars of the Charente economy.


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

Cognac brandy is made according to ancestral traditions, unchanged today


Visit of the Vallein Tercinier house in Chermignac

If you are passing through the region, a stopover in a cognac house is a must to understand the entire manufacturing process, from vinification to distillation. The territory of the Cognac vineyard is strewn with castles, mansions and elegant stone buildings surrounded by wine estates that stretch as far as the eye can see.

The good idea: You are only a few minutes from the town of Saintes. Read our articles to organize your stay in Saintonge. What to do in Val de Saintonge and Saintes? The Top 10 things to do in Saintes and Saintes along the water: boat trip on the Charente!


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

We choose to go to Saintonge, to the Domaine des Forge, in a cognac house where blending and aging have been practiced as an art since 1850. Years of experience and knowledge accompanied by a deep respect for traditions enabled the Vallein Tercinier family to produce exceptional Cognacs and Pineaux des Charentes. In the courtyard of the estate's magnificent property, we meet Guillaume Tercinier, one of the heirs of this family know-how which has been perpetuated for five generations.


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

The copper stills heat up from mid-November to the end of March


The visit begins with the discovery of the distillery which has eight so-called "Charentais" stills in red copper of a very specific shape, each with its boiler, its swan's necks and its coil. There, Guillaume passionately presents the history of the estate, his family and the cognac vineyard. We get to the heart of the matter by detailing the process of harvesting, vinification, double distillation which preserves the flavor of the fruit and concentrates the aromas. We then follow him into the impressive century-old aging cellar to discover the long aging process of cognac eaux-de-vie and the work of the cellar master.


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

The “Paradise” where the oldest cognacs are carefully kept

Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier


Now is the time to put our theoretical knowledge of cognac flavors into practice! A tasting is essential to appreciate the subtleties of the various cognacs of the Vallein Tercinier family. Indeed, cognacs are classified according to the length of aging: young VS (Very Special) are at least two years old, VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) at least four years old, XO (Extra Old) at least ten years old, XXO (Extra Extra Old) at least fifteen years old, also called Hors d'âge and Vieille Réserve. A real journey for the senses!


Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
Cognac Vallein-Tercinier

Tasting: the cognac presents an astonishing aromatic palette represented in the “Wheel of Aromas”

Cognac Vallein-Tercinier
All ValleinTercinier family products are on sale directly in the estate shop

Tourist route and large houses of Cognac

Among the emblematic trading houses to visit in the region, you will find Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin, Courvoisier but also Hine, Meukow, Frapin, Camus, Baron Otard, Boinaud, Montifaud, Bourgoin and Les frères Moines, ABK6, Bache -Gabrielsen, Maison Frapin, Thomas Hine & Roullet-Fransacou and even Tiffon-Braastad who carry the colors of their eaux-de-vie high throughout the world.

To discover the Charente and the Charente-Maritime while taking your time, stopping off in the wine estates and chatting with the craftsmen, there are several wine and tourist routes. The Cognac Wine Tourist Route (fr) stretches from Saintes to Angoulême while the "Etapes du Cognac" invite you to explore, from village to village, the wine-growing traditions and heritage of the Charente vineyards of the Cognac appellation.

Did you like our report? Find more on the Guide Charente-Maritime blog. Connect to the Charente Maritime Guide Facebook page to be kept up to date with our news. We are also on Instagram @guidecharentemaritime


Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide Charente Maritime


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