In order for brandy to be deemed “Cognac”, it must meet the BNIC standards, including production from grapes originating from one of the six cognac appellations or growing regions in the Charente region of southwest France, including Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires, Bois à Terroirs, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne.
Île de Ré is situated just off the Charente coast, and forms a part of the Bois à Terroirs appellation. As such, it meets the BNIC appellation requirements for Cognac. Cognac, however, historically had not been made on the Île de Ré until Camus, a cognac producer since 1863, took the initiative in the early 21st century to begin crafting Cognac from eaux-de-vie from the grapes grown on the Île de Ré.
The vineyards and grapes of Île de Ré differ from those on the mainland appellations and as such they produce unique Cognacs.
The Grapes of Île de Ré
In order to be considered Cognac the grapes must be 90% eau de vie from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes with up to 10% Folignan, Jurancon Blanc, Blanc Rame, Montils or Semillon grapes. Ugni Blanc grapes are grown in the Île de Ré vineyards and have higher iodine content than grapes grown on the mainland as a result of their vineyards being surrounded by salt water and infused with salt-laden sea air. The higher iodine content of the Ugni Blanc grapes gives Île de Ré cognacs a saltier taste than their mainland counterparts.
Three Island Cognac Best Drunk Chilled or Over Ice
The Île de Ré Fine Island cognac is Camus’ youngest from the Île de Ré. It is damp cellar aged in lightly toasted oak barrels.
Camus recommends that the Île de Ré Fine Island cognac be drunk straight, over ice or chilled and served with fish or seafood.
The Île de Ré Double Matured cognac, as its name suggests, goes through a double maturation process. The eaux-de-vie is matured first in an Ile de Ré cellar. The second maturation process takes place in Cognac where the eaux-de-vie is transported and matured in oak toasted barrels. This cognac has a smokey and salty, yet sophisticated taste.
Camus recommends that its Île de Ré Double Matured coganc be drunk straight or over ice. Camus recommends an obvious fish pairing with this maritime cognac.
The Île de Ré Cliffside Cellar cognac is produced in small batches and undergoes a double maturation process, both on the Île de Ré. The first aging takes place in small barrels with light tannins. The second aging occurs in a cliff-side cellar on top of a fort wall in the Fort de La Prée, a fort built in 1625 on the eastern coast of the Île de Ré. The cellaring process that takes place at Fort de La Prée with its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, gives the Île de Ré Cliffside Cellar cognac the most ‘maritime” character of the Île de Ré Camus cognacs.
Camus recommends that the Île de Ré Cliffside Cellar cognac be drunk straight or “with a few drops of mineral water”. Camus adds that “to enjoy the full range of aromas that this cognac has to offer, we recommend chilling it and then tasting it continuously as its temperature rises.”
Visting Île de Ré
The Île de Ré has a population of about 15,000 that swells to about 200,000 during the summer months. The Île de Ré is easily accessible from the Charente-Martime via a bridge built in 1987.
The Ernest Cognacq Museum is on the Île de Ré and housed in a 15th century building the Hotel de Clerjotte that is named after Louis Clergeat a tax collector at the time. The Ernest Cognac Museum contains historical artifacts of the Cognac region and is named after Ernest Cognacq (1839-1928) the founder of the La Samaritaine Department stores that funded the establishment of the museum.