This tour gets better by the day! Just finished a stellar day in Cognac, France. About one and one half hour drive south of Bordeaux is the small city of Cognac. The French country side is gorgeous! Yellow flowers, blossoming trees, farmhouses and fields. I see most of it when my eyes are open and I have not succumbed to the sand man. It’s hard for me as any motion makes me sleepy. It’s a pleasant drive.
We arrive in Cognac and embark on one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a long while and for some, it’s what they’ve been waiting for. You see, on our day in Champagne, one of our group members asked no less than 4 times, “when are we going to Cognac?” Only to say once we arrived in Cognac, “I don’t drink Cognac, I drink Brandy. But I wanted to give it a try” I know, you’re having the same reaction I did. Huh? Anyway, It’s apparent that Hennessy owns this town. There are other Cognac houses, some large and some small and just like when we were in Champagne, when we arrived in Cognac we saw some of the more famous named houses like Martel & Remy Martin. It’s impressive to see.
Hennessy, was founded by Richard Hennessy, who is actually from Ireland and at the ripe old age of 20 he moved to France to join the French army under Louis XV. Then in 1765 he founded Hennessy. In 1794 he made his first delivery to the US. In 1817 he created VSOP (Very Superior Ole Pale) for the then Prince of Whales. In 1870 Maurice Hennessy creates XO (Extra Old). Hennessy is the largest and first international Cognac with 80% exported, most of that going to the US and most of that consumed by African Americans. What I learned is that Cognac can only be called Cognac if the grapes are grown in Cognac, just like Champagne. And yes, Cognac is made from grapes. The vines produce Ugni Blanc and then only eaux-de-vies from the four great crus of the region are selected (Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fin Bois) for Hennessy Cognac.
Of course, we enjoy Hennessy, the tour and the tasting but the entire day is splendid. We started with a cruise on an old wooden barge along the river and discovering the inhabitants of the river both wild and human, mansions owned by Hennessy as well as national gardens,parks and restaurants. It’s relaxing and pleasant on a perfect Spring day. A bit chilly with fresh air and the occasional sunshine. After our cruise we rejoin group 2 (our group is split into 2 and they visit Hennessy while we cruise the river and vice versa) for lunch at a restaurant along the rivers edge. We have a very country meal (brie, duck in a cherry reduction and an upside down apple tart with grand marnier caramel sauce) mmmmm. After lunch we visit Hennessy. It’s an impressive tour and education and of course, after the tasting there’s product and time for shopping. I did get some goodies for some of my friends…you know who you are…and no, it’s not the XO! I love you but no can do.
I learned two more things things today.
Along the river cruise I learned that mistletoe is a parasite that grows on the trees here. It’s those balls you see here in the photo.
The second thing is the response to a sneeze in French (A tes souhaits) which means “to your wishes”.
Tomorrow we return to Paris and awaiting us will be Julia Brown, the owner of Walking the Spirits. She will take us on a Black Paris walking tour. We’re all anticipating it.
À la prochaine, (until next time)
Ja’Vonne Harley, Co-Host, The Traveling Eye