It all starts with the grape varieties (Ugni blanc is the main one), selected to produce the white wines destined exclusively for Cognac production. This is followed by the traditional harvesting, pressing the grapes, and making the wine...
The Vineyards of a Noble Spirit
Taking together all the growing areas, the Cognac Delimited Region comprises about 6 200 vineyards that produce Charentes white wine used in the production of Cognac. The variety most widely planted is Ugni Blanc (although Folle Blanche and Colombard are also found). This late maturing variety has a good resistance to "grey mould" and produces a wine with two essential features: a high acidity level and, generally speaking, a low alcohol content. Since the phylloxera plague suffered at the end of the 19th century, all the varieties used have been grafted onto various vinestocks according to the type of soil.
Mid-October: The Harvest
On average, vines are planted 3 meters apart. All types of pruning are permitted. The most commonly used is the "Double Guyot" method. Some harvesters continue to harvest by hand, but the great majority now use a harvesting machine. These machines have existed for about 30 years and are perfectly suited to the needs of the region's growers. Harvesting may begin as soon as the grape reaches maturity, generally at the beginning of October and conclude at the end of the month.
Pressing and Fermentation: The Natural Method
The grapes are pressed immediately after harvesting in traditional basket plate presses or pneumatic bladder presses. The use of continuous presses are forbidden. Fermentation of the
juice follows immediately. Chaptalisation (the addition of sugar) is forbidden by law. Pressing and fermentation are closely supervised, as they have a determining influence on the final quality of the eau-de-vie.
From wine to eau-de-vie
About 5 to 7 days after the beginning of fermentation, the wines for Cognac contain about 9% alcohol.
With their high acidity and low alcohol content, they are perfect for distillation, which must be completed by the next March 31st.