So, I’m on holiday with my extended family in the Charente, attending a family wedding tomorrow. It’s not wine country, really – although a few wines are made here, the extensive vineyards around where we are staying pretty much all go into Cognac. Colombard and Ugni Blanc are the grape varieties, although small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown to make the red version of Pineau des Charentes (a sweet fortified wine, made by adding Cognac eau de vie to partially fermented grape must).
The Cognac producer we chose to visit was a small local one, Les Grands Pateurs, which is run by Didier Charrassier. It’s located in Gemozac, and the family have 18 hectares of vines, and make both Cognac and Pineau.
We arrived as a fairly large group (three brothers in law, the older three children, and the owners of the gites we are all staying in). Didier was busy elsewhere, so initially we were hosted by his father and mother. His father, the 81-year-old Bernard, was fabulous. He explained the production process, and showed us some 90-year-old vines planted by his father, as well as conducting a tasting.
It really was a lovely visit. France does these small family businesses so well. The Cognacs were really lovely, especially the 25 year old XO, which we all bought (a very reasonable 40 Euros a bottle). Here are my notes of the tasting, but bear in mind that I don’t claim to be a Cognac expert.
Les Grands Pateurs Cognac VS (5 years old)
Yellow coloured. Fresh, bright and lively with citrus notes, a bit of grip, and a warming finish. Nice density. 7/10 (18 Euros)
Les Grands Pateurs Cognac VSOP (8 years old)
Yellow/orange colour. Some spice, citrus and a nice orange peel complexity. Some aniseed, too. Warm and rounded but with freshness at the same time. 7.5/10 (25 Euros)
Les Grands Pateurs Cognac XO (25 years old)
Mahogany colour. Very rich, rounded and bold with raisin, cedar and spice aromas and a lovely texture in the mouth. Rich and unctuous with intense, concentrated flavours. Delicious. 9/10