As the summer months slope gently by into autumn DIYers in Deux-Sevres, Donna and Dave visit Cognac…
We have become rather used to the warmth and lovely dryness in the house after summer and hope that it will remain that way inside. No more buckets to catch the rain in this house I hope, after all it had not been lived in for 40 years and when we started this renovation we had a great deal of holes and leaks.
But before the weather turns from bright and warm to grey and cool we decided to prendre des vacances (have a small holiday). Due to work commitments Dave couldn’t have much time off, so we decided to spend a few days camping in the lovely town of Cognac, a little over two hours from our home.
The campsite beside the river Charente in a wooded, enclosed area gave us privacy as well as some shade from the sun (it’s amazing how hot a tent can get on a sunny day). We stayed at “Camping de Cognac” right at the edge of town. Cognac town is a really beautiful place with a good mix of history and modern interests. The French do seem to love mixing an old chateau with modern art and we found some of that in Cognac. We also went to the indoor market, which is so evocative of all the best of things French and the reason so many of us expats fall in love with France. Fresh bread, seafood, fruit and meat compete for attention with local wines and of course the best Cognac.
After buying some supplies to take back and cook at the campsite we ambled up to the tourist info office to get some ideas of what to see and do. We decided to visit a couple of Cognac houses – after all it would have been rude not to.
There are both large and small “maisons” de Cognac where you can see how this French drink is made and have a taste. They’re not all open all year round so check and book in advance if you want to visit. Allow about two hours for each visit if you really want to get the full picture, soak up the ambience and enjoy the lovely scenery.
Chateau de Font Joyeuse in Louzac Saint Andre is on the outskirts of Cognac. As we visited just out of high season (September) there was no one else wanting a tour and we got a private tour. Only 40% of the produce of this distillery is used by the house to make their own Cognac, the rest is sold to Rémy Martin.
As an anniversary gift from our daughter we had a tour of the famous Rémy Martin House which is known as “the heart of Cognac”. The company was founded in 1724 by a young winegrower – Rémy Martin. Such was his skill that in 1738 Louis XV granted Rémy Martin the exceptional right to plant new vines so that he could continue to produce excellent cognac, despite a ban on new vines being in place since 1731. The company has never looked back.
At the legendary premises of this Cognac producer we again had a tour on our own – going out of peak season has lots of benefits! Several different tours are offered, blending, tastings with gourmet appetisers, a gastronomic lunch, candlelit dinner under the stars, cellar tours and loads more. While the tours at Rémy Martin are more expensive than tours of most other top houses, it is worth the extra cost. While most tours end with a tasting of the house brandy, these people go above and beyond by serving their tastings with complementary foods – they weren’t mean with the tastings and I felt a little light headed when we left! Tours also include a small train trip to see the fields and children are not excluded, though they obviously aren’t offered the house drink. While the parents taste the brandy, the kids get juice and cookies! We were allowed to take photos in all the rooms except where the barrels were ageing, that apparently, is top secret.
Of course we bought a bottle of cognac home with us to sip on cold evenings in front of a log fire while we contemplate the good life in France…
Donna and Dave moved to France from the UK where they have been renovating their neglected old house and learning to live the French way.