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Many custodians of noble beverages that have earned a respected reputation and image will institute protocols that protect their brands. In order to wear the badge of quality and appellation, producers will only be permitted to put on these hallmarks on their labels if they adhere to strict rules of provenance and production. In the case of Cognac, this includes boundaries of viticulture, vivification, distillation, maturation and classification. Here we attempt to summarise the processes and various sub-classifications of Cognac to assist the consumer better understand the markings on Cognac bottles.

Cognac Decrees

May 1st 1909

“Delimited” wine growing regions in:

Charente-Maritime Department - All areas

Charente Department – Most areas

Deux-Sèvres Department – Minor parts

Dordogne Departments – Minor parts

May 15th 1936

AOC given to:


Eau-de-Vie de Cognac

Eau-de-Vie des Charentes

January 13th 1938

Six Cru Districts defined in the “Delimited” Area

Cognac 1938 AOC Varietals


Main Grapes min. 90%

Ugni Blanc 98%

Folle Blanche


Jurancon Blanc

Meslier St-Francis


Sémillon (not used now)


Minor Grapes max. 10%

Folignan (introduced 2005)



Ugni Blanc

Italian Varietal           – aka Trebbiano

Good Resistance     – Grey rot & disease

High Acidity               – Good natural preservative as SO2 not permitted

Late Maturation        – more time to absorb flavours

Good Physiological Ripeness @ Low Sugar Levels ie less alcoholic wines with fuller flavour per ABV distilled. 9 litres of wine is required to produce 1 litre of Cognac



Viticultural Restrictions

No Irrigation

No Shoot Thinning

No Green Harvesting

No Leaf Removal

No Red Grapes

All Training Systems Allowed – mostly Double Guyot


Vinification Rules

Low Alcohol - 7% ABV min. to 12% ABV max.

High Acidity - 12.25 milliequivalents/litre max.

Additives below not Permitted:

  • Chaptalization (sugar)

  • Sulphur Dioxide

Two Consecutive Fermentations (Saccharomyces cerevisiae FC9 )

  • Alcoholic - 4 to 8 days

  • Malolactic – 5 days (not mandatory)


Cru Districts

Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac BNIC

Grande Champagne                       – 34.7/13.25k h (17%)

Petite Champagne                          – 65.6/15.25k h (22%)

Borderies                                           – 12.5/4k h (5%)

Fins Bois                                           – 350/31.2k h (43%)

Bons Bois                                          – 370/9.3k h (12%)

Bois Ordinaires or Bois à Terroir   – 260/1.06k (1%)

Total                                                   – 1093 / 74kh



Cru Terroir & Characteristics


Grande Champagne ( Limestone & chalk )

Aroma                                                – floral bouquet, lime blossom, dry wood

Palate                                                 – Subtle Elegance yet Powerful. Very complexed

Length                                               – Very Long

Aging                                                 – Slow Aging


Petite Champagne ( Limestone & chalk )

Aroma                                                – Grapevine Floral & Fruity

Palate                                                 – Elegant, subtle complexity

Length                                               – Long

Aging                                                 – Slow Aging


Borderies ( Clay from chalk and flint stones )

Aroma                                                – Floral - violets & Iris

Palate                                                 – Delicate & Subtle nutty

Length                                               – Good Length

Aging                                                 – Ages fast


Fins Bois ( Red clay-limestone, stony )

Aroma                                                – Lightly Floral, Grapes

Palate                                                 – Rounded, oily, good intensity

Length                                               – Medium to Long

Aging                                                 – Fastest Aging


Bons Bois ( Varied, clay-limestone, sand )

Aroma                                                – Fruity Crushed Grapes

Palate                                                 – Terroir dominant

Length                                               – Usually medium

Aging                                                 – Fast


Bois Ordinaires or Bois à Terroir ( Sandy, maritime & rustic )

Aroma                                                – Fruity

Palate                                                 – Terroir dominant, Maritime

Length                                               – Medium Short

Aging                                                 – Fast



Cognac AOC Distillation

  1. Distilled before April following Harvest

  2. Copper Alembics/Charentais Pot Stills

  3. Open Flame

  4. Distilled to less than 72.4%

  5. Distilled Twice (repasse)


First Distillation Still max. 140hl

Max. 120hl wine

produces Brouillis (cloudy 28-32%ABV)


Second Distillation Still max. 30hl

Max. 25hl Brouillis

produces Bonne Chauffe



Cognac AOC Aging

  1. Min 2 years in Chais or Paradis from 1st April each year

  2. First aged in New Oak then older “roux”, then very old Oak just for oxidation & evaporation.

  3. Sessille/Durmast or Pedunculate Oak from Limousin or Tronçais

  4. Age statement is that of the Youngest

  5. Distilled or Demineralized Water for reduction

  6. Bottle Strength min 40%

  7. Caramel Colouring Allowed

  8. 2% Syrup Allowed

  9. Oak boisé Allowed


Age Classifications

  1. ✯✯✯ - min 2 years

  2. VS Very Special - min 2 years

  3. VSOP Very Superior Old Pale – min 4 years

  4. Reserve or Vieux– min 4 years

  5. Napoléon – min 6 years

  6. XO Extra Old – min 10 years (as of Apr’18)

  7. Extra – min 10 years

  8. Hors d'âge  - "beyond age" – min 10 years

  9. XXO Extra Extra Old – min 14 years


Champagne Cognac Classifications

Minimum 90% eau de vie from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche or Colombard.

Remainder Folignan, Jurancon blanc, Blanc Rame, Montils or Semillon.produces Bonne Chauffe


Grande Champagne

100% Grande Champagne


Fine Champagne

Min 50% from Grande Champagne, balance from Petite Champagne


Petite Champagne

100% Petite Champagne



Producer Classifications


Bouilleurs de Cru

Farmers who grow the vines, harvest and produce wines that they distil and age their own Cognac



Can be Bouilleurs ie from start to end, but can also purchase grapes, wine, eau-de-vie or aged brandy.  They then further process them, blend and bottle under their name.


Maître de Chai

Although a chai is a warehouse he is not just a Cellar Master. Maître de chai is part of the purchasing process and oversees storage, maturing & blending.

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