Beep-beep! In the rustic Cognac region of France, many maisons tout their prime vintages, but there’s only one that can offer a vineyard safari. Quietly rumbling through rows of vines in a restored 1960 Peugeot D4B, visitors are given prime access to a relative newcomer on the cognac market.
Like champagne, cognac or eau die vie is a type of sweet brandy named after the region of France where it is mass produced. Born of white wine grapes that on their own are “undrinkable,” the grape juice is pressed, and then allowed to ferment before being distilled on two separate occasions. After running through the copper still process, a proper cognac must be aged in a Limousin or Tronçais oak cask for at least two years before being sold. The various levels of cognac are determined by how many years the spirit is allowed to age and the blending of different mixtures. However, the ageing of cognac is a delicate process. If left in a cask too long, the spirit is best served as a drink for the Peugeot.
While the Bourgoin family have been responsible for these cognac grape-growing fields for more than a century, the long-time landowners now have their own bottle too. Led by sibling duo Frédéric and Maëlys Bourgoin, the family’s recipe emphasizes the terroir of their crop and the earth-friendly processes used to make each batch. Terroir refers to the soil, climate, and regional factors that can affect the taste of the cognac in the slightest ways—and the Bourgoins appear to have a winning combination without any blending.
While the industry can be bogged down by old rules and major cognac houses, the Bourgoins take a decidedly different tact and have come to embrace and celebrate the whimsy of their small enterprise. Holiday lights are strung to bring color to an otherwise cavernous aging cellar, and the family is constantly experimenting with new recipes, including a batch that had been accidentally aged for 38 years (sounds like someone forgot that “secret stash” they tucked away). While established cognac brands may carry little information on their bottles, Bourgoin’s cognac is chock full of it, with fun lessons and quips written all over the bottles’ label.
While there may not be any lions or tigers found when on an expeditionary tour of the Bourgoin estate, a trip to the maison is made worthwhile by the many interesting and unexpected tastes of their cognacs. Did we mention they have a Peugeot?
Written By: Seamus McMahon