Defining Champagne Cognac
Cognac, a region in southwest France that sits just north of the region of Bordeaux, is renowned for producing the world’s finest brandy, or “Cognac”. Champagne, a region in Northern France, is famous for its fine sparkling wines or “Champagne”.
Cognac and champagne are synonymous for fine brandy and sparkling wine, respectively. For a brandy to be called ‘Cognac’ or a sparkling wine ‘champagne’, however, the product must originate from these regions and, in the case of Cognac, must be produced in accordance with the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BINC) standards.
For a brandy to be considered ‘Cognac’ it must originate in the Cognac Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) that was established in 1936. The grapes used to make Cognac must come from one of the six designated growing areas or ‘crus’ located in the Cognac region. The six Cognac crus include: Borderies, Fins Bois (the largest appellation) Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires, Bois à terroirs, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne.
In addition to the requirement that the grapes must come from one of the six approved appellations, Cognac must also must be made from grapes blended from 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.
If a brandy producer located in the Cognac AOC follows all BINC standards, including meeting production and distillation requirements, their brandy can officially be called “Cognac”.
How does a Cognac get to be called Champagne Cognac?
Champagne Cognac does not mean brandy with bubbles or brandy that is produced in the sparkling wine region of Champagne in the north of France. Rather, Champagne Cognac is Cognac that is produced from grapes grown in two appellations located within the Cognac region, the Grande Champagne and/or the Petit Champagne appellations. The Grande Champagne and Petit Champagne appellations derive their name from the French term “champagne” that means chalky soil and refers to the clay/limestone/chalk found in the soils of the Champagne appellations of Cognac.
While the term “Champagne” often connotes the best of sparkling wines, the same can be said for Champagne Cognac as the chalky soil found in the two Champagne appellations of the Cognac regions provide what Rémy Martin, a producer of Fine Champagne Cognac refers to as the “ideal conditions to ripen the grapes to perfection.”
To be considered Fine Champagne Cognac, the brandy must be made in accordance with all BINC standards for Cognac, but also contain eau-de-vie from Cognac’s Champagne appellations with at least 50% eau de vie from Grande Champagne. Fine Champagne Cognac, thus is produced from a blend of Grande and Petite Champagne eau-de-vie.
To be considered Grande Champagne Cognac, all BINC standards must be met and 100% of the eau de vie must come from Grande Champagne.
Nearly all of the major Cognac houses produce either a Fine and/or a Grande Champagne Cognac.