A cognac master blender has to mix a variety of eaux-de-vie that he thinks will best age together in oak barrels to make the perfect cognac. The oak barrels selected has a major impact on the color and taste of cognac. After all, the eaux-de-vie will be aged in barrels for two-100 years!
Barrels crafted for cognac aging are always made of oak. The oak, however, can be one of two types of oak Quercus pedunculata (sometimes known as q robur) or Quercus sessiliflora (sessile).
Quercus pedunculata accounts for about 20% of all trees in France and is harvested mostly in the Limousin forests near the city of Limoges, about 150 KM from Cognac. The soil in the Limousin forest is similar to that in the Cognac appellation – tending towards clay and limestone. The Quercus pedunculata is a porous wood and is very popular with master blenders. As a result of the porous nature of the wood, cognacs aged in Quercus pedunculata are more tannic than those aged in Quercus sessiliflora which has a tighter grain.
Rémy Martin cognac is aged in barrels with wood exclusively from the Limosin forest.
Cognacs aged in Quercus pedunculata have a smoky reddish color, with a woody taste, mixed with vanilla tones
Quercus sessiliflora accounts for about 15% of all trees in France. Quercus sessiliflora trees are taller than Quercus pedunculata and have a less porous wood and therefore have less tannins. Quercus sessiliflora are harvested mainly in the Tronçais Forest in central France in the French Allier department.
Courvoissier VSOP is aged in 200-year-old oak sourced from the Tronçais Forest.
Cognacs aged in Quercus sessiliflora tend to be more amber than reddish in color and may have tones of coconut and spice.
Barrels for cognac aging generally come from oak trees that are 125-200 years old. The barrells are made from the first few meters of the tree only.
Tips for Cognac Visitors
When visiting Cognac, consider a trip to the nearby Limousin forests near Limoges, where you can hike amid the mighty oak trees that provide Cognacs barrels.
Limousin Resources: http://www.tourismelimousin.com/
While in Cognac, a visit to a cooper to see how barrels are made is at the top of many visitors’ list.
Visit Tonnellerie Sansaud just outside cognac
Address: Route de Gensac, 16130 Segonzac, France
Phone: +33 5 45 83 33 28
Address: 184 Rue Haute de Crouin, 16100 Cognac, France
Phone: +33 5 45 82 02 58
Oak Information Source: Cognac by Kyle Jarrard