Today’s post is another alcoholic tour post. My Dad’s job is focussed on alcohol, he sells it and even has a diploma in wines and spirits. So when I was younger we went to a few different houses and he had always told me about the BIG five. These were/are the biggest producers of Cognac and are Martell, Hennessy, Otard, Remy Martin and Courvoisier.
Over the past few years I had visited 4 of them, but with Courvoisier you have to do a tour by appointment only and finally we decided to complete the set. This will be my post explaining the tour and what you get for your money.
What is Cognac?
This is an important piece of information. Cognac is a brandy, that is made under very strict rules within the city of Cognac in France.
“You can make Brandy anywhere in the world, but you can only make Cognac in 79,000 hectares” I will explain more about the process later on but, this is what makes this spirit so special. It is blended from different eau de vies (distilled wine based spirit) that have been aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels and blended to taste almost exactly the same every year.
Cognac and Brandy originated in the 17th century from the Dutch, but the regions of Cognac and the distinct soils have made it this extremely sought after spirit. You may have even heard rappers talk about it – especially Henessey.
Known as Napoleon’s drink, Courvoisier has an international reputation for being a very sought after drink.
Even being the official drink at the opening of the Eiffel Tower! I will explain the sections of the tour – but first the price.
The price of the tour is dependent on the tasting you have at the end: –
For VS and VSOP the tour is 12 euros per person
For VSOP Exclusif and Napoleon with chocolates it is 20 euros per person
For XO and Initiale Extra with Macaroons it is 36 euros per person
As someone who would not appreciate the older and heavier Cognac’s I opted for the VS and VSOP Classic tour.
My parents also opted for this choice too!
The History of Courvoisier
This was the start of the tour. Our tour was done by the lovely Amelie, who was so enthusiastic about Courvoisier and explaining the process. Our tour group was originally only 6 of us, but two others came late. Amelie informed them that she would explain the bit they missed at the end after the rest of the tour which was super lovely!!
We looked at the original family tree and the history of how their Brandy became to be made in Jarnac. (Not far from Cognac, still in the region but not close to most of the other houses)
This area of the museum bit had some amazing things. Including one of Napoleon’s hats and a scroll of a letter from him – with a lock of his hair.
The next area of the museum was focussed on the advert campaigns of Courvoisier. This included an amazing paper model of the Eiffel Tower. Every part of it was made of paper including the little bikes.
We also watched the most recent advert, which I had seen on the tv. This also explained that their logo was the bottom shape of the Eiffel Tower with the silhouette of Napoleon. Which I had never noticed before!
The next area was some special bottles that were made and a lot of links to Paris. There was posters linking Courvisier to the Moulin Rouge and so many amazing designs of it being the drink of Paris. (Despite being made so so many miles away!!)
She also informed us that only 2% of all Cognac is bought in France. The rest is prepared for export which blows my mind!!
The Process of making Cognac
I will try to describe this very very simply – they harvest grapes from 6 different areas that make up the different regions of Cognac.
In Courvisier they use only from Grande Champagne, petite champagne, fin bois and borderies. These all have different types of soils which produce different flavours. There is 3 varieties of grapes used – but 98% of them are Unis Blanc.
Then they are left to ferment and are distilled twice, before becoming Eau de Vie. The process of Cognac distillation need to be done with copper distillations and then it is stored in oak barrels. The newer barrels have a higher concentration of Tannins and most eau de vie is stored in these for 2 years, before being blended into different Cognacs.
What do the letter’s mean?
VS – This is the newest Cognac, that is aged for a minimum of 3 years. It stands for Very Superior and is usually more vanilla and caramel flavoured.
VSOP – Very Superior Old Pale. This is normally aged for a minimum of 5 years. This often tastes more floral and caramel scented.
Napoleon – This is a special from Courvoisier, which is aged for 5-7 years in oak barrels. This has more of an apricot and sandalwood flavour.
XO – Extra Old. This is normally aged for at least 11 to 25 years. This is very oak flavoured, with a floral richness.
The rest of the tour and tasting
After we walked into their display warehouse and saw how the Cognac is aged. Once it is bottled in glass, the process stops ageing. However, they still need to be stored in the dark and cool.
In the warehouse, Amelie explained how warehouses are placed near the river as the damp helps with the ageing process. Also about the angels share, how many bottles are lost each year to it evaporating.
Afterwards, we looked at the role of the master blender and who it currently is. Then continued on into the shop area.
We assembled by a bar, where our tasting drinks were laid out ready for us.
She explained what we should be tasting and I tried the VS first. It was still strong to me as I am not a neat spirits drinker, so they added ginger ale and orange into mine. It was so lovely and easy to drink that way.
Then she explained to other members of the group what their flavours and tasting notes were.
I then tried the VSOP, but the same thing happened with my uneducated palette, so my Mum finished mine for me.
My review of Courvoisier
I really enjoyed my time at Courvoisier. Amelie was so lovely and made the tour so personal. The group was a lot smaller than other times I have been on the tours. I was also able to drink as I was overage this time – so that helped!
We all enjoyed our time there and felt it was a lovely experience.
Let me know if you’ve been here before in the comments!
Until next time,
The Great Ambini
X x X
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