Cognac’s mystique can be attributed not only to savoir-faire, but to the uniqueness of its terroir, those 75,000 hectares of fertile grounds in the southwest of France.
This rich and singular expanse falls across the regions of Charente and Charente-Maritime, bordered by the Atlantic coast on the west, and the famous wine-growing region of Bordeaux to the south.
If the cognac of Maison Martell was first produced three centuries ago, as a terroir, the Cognac AOC is relatively new, officially only established in 1938. France’s famous Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system controls the integrity of ingredients and processes used in some of the country’s best known produce and products.
So what makes Cognac terroir so unique and worthy of protection? It starts with the grapes, the vast majority being a single variety. Ugni Blanc accounts for 98 percent of grapes in the Cognac terroir, a variety typical for its high yield and late maturation that produces wines low in alcohol, and high in acidity.
The AOC comprises six recognised collections of vineyards, or crus. The soil within each terroir has its own specific characteristics that give the eau-de-vie a distinct aromatic profile. Among the Borderies, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires crus, Martell selects its grapes mainly from the first four, with a historic preference for Borderies.
The crus are situated in concentric circles, Borderies and Grande Champagne at the heart. Borderies, the smallest cru, accounts for just five percent of cognac vineyards. The signature cru of Martell is renowned for its elegant eaux-de-vie, dominated by notes of flowers and candied fruit.
Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne crus grow in chalk and limestone soils. These produce an eaux-de-vie characterised by a rich and aromatic profile, distinguished by traits of nuts and red fruit.
These three crus are surrounded by Fins Bois. The eaux-de-vie produced here is known for its freshness and lightness, and fresh fruit notes including pear and peach.
When assembling eaux-de-vie, Maison Martell Master Blender Christophe Valtaud will look to express the best and most singular aspects of each terroir. As a result, while appreciation of cognac is universal, the elegant amber spirit will only ever be French.
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