It takes its name from the local river port and initially owed its success to the Charente river, opening out into the ocean. The wine spirit capital, Cognac, is located in the center of this region, on the banks of the Charente River. In the early 19th century, the local brandy was named after this river port to identify its provenance. Over the past century, the vineyards have expanded significantly inland and are gaining ground in the southern part of the Cognac region. Indeed, vines have almost completely replaced all other crops throughout the Cognac region.
Viticulture continues to shapethe rural landscape
The region’s vineyards form a highly organized grid around the farmhouses, situated in hollows and on the long chalk slopes of the Champagne area, between Segonzac and Cognac.
The steeper valleys in this area feature smaller plots of vines, creating an original viticultural patchwork during the summer months, interspersed with residual high woodland. North of Cognac, from Matha to Rouillac, vast stretches of vines are planted on low limestone plateaux, also used for mixed farming of grains and oleaginous seeds.
This land has long been occupied by human activity, with viticulture requiring a large, specialized workforce. Situated on vine-covered slopes south of Segonzac, this semi-dispersed habitat is also home to hamlets and market towns with historic links to the wine industry.
The estate buildings are surrounded by vats, distilleries and aging cellars, blackened by Torula compniacensis (a fungus which feeds on alcohol vapors). To the north of Cognac and Jarnac, around Sigogne and Mérignac, diversified agricultural activities also include a rich winemaking heritage.
Specific urban landscapesmarked by trade
The region, small urban centers, such as Segonzac, Châteauneuf, and Jonzac, have residential areas, as well as artisanal and trading activities.
The urban landscape features beautiful dwellings built by old distiller families, an ancient heritage passed down to today’s generation, together with their wine-related businesses. Aging cellars stand alongside cooperage workshops and artisanal areas, with vineyard equipment, storage areas, etc.
The regional impact ofJarnac and Cognac
In less than two centuries, these two towns have witnessed strong urban growth linked to Cognac’s commercial development. Home to the main trading houses, they are conveniently located along the river, which serves as the navigable route for shipping precious commodities to the estuary ports of Tonnay-Charente and Rochefort.
Large cooperage workshops that supply barrels to the aging cellars stand next to Cognac warehouses, as well as bottling and packaging plants.
Today, this urban landscape is undergoing a major transformation to adapt to the latest production requirements. Storage facilities are being transferred to specialized warehouses on the outskirts of towns or in the countryside, including Merpins for Rémy-Martin, Bagnolet for Hennessy, and Rouillac for Martell.
Wine tourism focuses on current areas of interest, including merchant house tours, visits at producer estates, specialist museums, the regions’ rich heritage, and varied cuisine, offering visitors the chance to discover the many facets of the world’s most prestigious spirit.
What to remember
Thanks to Cognac’s commercial success, the Charentes’ vineyard landscapes and market towns are intrinsically linked to the Cognac industry, the region’s main economic activity.
The transformations currently under way highlight the terroir’s ability to adapt to changing market demands, reflected in the emergence of new cocktail bars, the renovation of the riverbanks, and hotel investments. The region’s rich terroir provides infinite development prospects for the Cognac area.