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Gastronomy in the Cognac Region

In Poitou-Charentes or Cognac country, the traditional dishes of the country and "la grande cuisine" in town are not so very different: they both use the freshest local ingredients. From the simplest to the most refined, restaurants offer a modern gastronomy inherited from regional recipes. World famous eau-de-vie Cognac is made in this region and this palatable brew is present in most recipes. Variety and quality are the secret of the regional products.

cognacSeafood: If you are determined to sample seafood as fresh as can be, Poitou-Charentes is the right region since its coast overflows with bounty: a great variety of fish: sea-bass, dover sole, mullet, halibut, frog fish, skate, sea bream, scallops, clams and of course mussels and oysters ideally from the Marennes-Oleron beds, the only oysters in France with the distinctive Red Label.

Do try "ceteaux" ­ Le Divellec's favorite ­ grilled or pan fried with lemon and butter: they are small soles carried by the tide from the open sea round the ile d'Oleron and are only to be found in this region.

Poitou Charente, a tradition of taste: Everyone is aware that the best butter in France comes from the Charentes. For over a hundred years, regional milk production companies have remained faithful to a traditional production.

Also famous are the local goat cheeses. Poitou-Charentes offers numerous and very tasty kinds and the different ways cheeses are refined, their degrees of maturity, their origins will have you enjoying their flavor at the end of every meal.

The meat producing tradition: The rich, thick grasses and a temperate climate generate cattle breeding and explain the quality of the meat produced in the region.

Poitou-Charentes lamb is a farm meat, with well marbled, well balanced and light flesh. The Parthenian race is a beef race coming from a long tradition of stock-rearing; its "top of range" meat with appetizing color is juicy and tasty. The people of Poitou have remained keen on kid, which is prepared with green garlic and sorrel. Also pork remains a traditional product and is accommodated in recipes combining the locally produced wines.

Cognac: It is a white wine produced and double distilled into an eau-de-vie. About 90% grapes used are of St.Emillion (Ugni Blanc) kind. The rest are Folle Blanche and Colombard. The grape growing, harvesting and Cognac production is accomplished in a limited and strictly controlled area of South West France. This area is characterized by chalky soil, wet winters and sunny summers and it spreads through two departments of South West France; Charente and Charente Maritime. Two small growth areas are also in the Deux Sevres and the Dordogne departments. The Cognac producing region is divided into six growths areas (crus)"

  • Grande Champagne; about 13,000 hectares of clay and compact chalk soil
  • Petite Champagne; some 16,000 hectares of clay and a more compact chalky layer of soil
  • Borderies; only 4,000 hectares of unique soil on the plateau above Charente river. The eau de vie has a slight nutty taste.
  • Fins Bois; 37,000 hectares of soil. characterized by quick aging environment. A subtle flowery bouquet characterizes this eau de vie.
  • Bon Bois; less chalky but more earthy soil of 16,000 hectares that is well reflected in the eau de vie
  • Bois Ordinaires et Bois Communs (Bois a Terroir); 30,000 hectares of soil influenced by the Atlantic climate

Cognac is the result of blending and aging of different eau-de-vie vintages. An unblended, straight vintage Cognac is very rare and available only in small quantities.

Cognac is aged in Limousin oak casks (barrels). It's aging period is between 2 to 50plus years. Once transferred out of the oak wood casks into bottles, Cognac stops aging. To prevent cognac reacting with the cork, its bottles must be stored vertically.

The aging is a very delicate process of interaction between outside air and the alcohol inside of the oak wood cask. This interaction is accomplished through the porosity of the oak. During this process about three percent of Cognac evaporates; this loss is referred to as "the angels share". For example, to obtain 100 liters of Cognac aged over 10 years, you will need to produce about 135 liters of Cognac. Thus the "angels share" contributes to the price of Cognac.

The age is indicated on the labels. It reflects the youngest eau-de-vie used in the Cognac blend. The age is based around the legal limits during which wine is distilled; The distillation period ends at midnight of the 31st March each year. Thus the following age indication applies:

*** and V.S. (Very Special) two and half years old

V.O. (Very Old), V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), Réserve must be at least four and half years old

X.O.(eXtra Old), Réserve, Extra, Hors d'Age and Napoleon six and half years or older

These label designations indicate more of a taste and style of a blended Cognac.

Pineau des Charentes: It is a result of a mistake of a wine maker in the town of Burie in 1589. He had put new grape juice into a barrel containing a small quantity of Cognac. And forgot about it. Sometime later, the wine maker tasted it, liked it and that is how Pineau des Charentes was born.

Today, Pineau des Charentes must be made by Pineau producers from the same grapes and in the same region as Cognac. There are two types of Pineau des Charentes;

White which is made of white grapes like St. Emillion, la Folle Blanche and Colombar. Fruity wines are sometimes added (sweat Merlot, white Jurancon, Semilion or Sauvignon)

Rose is made of Malbec, red Merlot, Cabernet franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Cognac is blended with the new grape juice within hours of grapes pressing to produce Pineau des Charentes. Grapes must be very ripe in order to obtain grape juice that is rich in natural sugars. Pineau des Charentes is the result of stopping the fermentation of the grape juice by adding Cognac which must be at least one year old. Pineau des Charentes must contain between 16.5% to 22% alcohol. Production is strictly controlled to assure high quality through proper blending and ageing.

It's a great drink served cold.

Region Highlights - Gastronomy, Sports and Leisure, Art & Culture, Cognac from A to Z, and Directions to Poitou-Charentes.

For additional information, visit the Cognac Country website.

Poitou-Charentes Map

Interactive Poitou-Charentes Map:

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