Exploring Cognac and the Charente region gives an insight into a brandy rich in history – with a barrel full of tastings on offer
Cognac is one of France’s most iconic products, yet little of it is consumed at home: 98% is exported. Authentic cognac can only be produced from a specific region but this vast vineyard stretches from the grand town of Cognac itself inland across the Charente region and over to the Atlantic coast. It is a delight to explore, with winemakers, distillers and the famed maisons de négoces (cognac merchants) open for visits. Most people begin in Cognac with one of the multimedia tours (around €20) of the likes of Hennessy, Martell or Rémy Martin, all established since the 1700s. Alternatively, many houses and winemaker-distillers in the nearby countryside offer just as interesting (if no-frills) tours for free. Many sites are open all year and from November to 31 March it’s possible to see the distilleries in action.