Legally the Cognaçais may use a number of grape varieties, although the choice is largely theoretical. The Ugni Blanc or to give it it’s proper name, the St Emillion des Charentes, accounts for about 95% of the total area. The rest is almost totally Colombard and Folle Blanch. This concentration is largely attributable to phylloxera. Cognacs rise to fame was based on two varieties, the Balzac and the Folle (later known as the Folle Blanche) both much despised by locals only interested in fine wines. In the eighteenth century the Colombard which made the delicious sweet wine from the Borderies also rose to fame, it ripens quickly to a sort of butterscotch warmth and when mixed with Ugni Blanc can provide delicious peachy flavours but will usually finish quite short on the palate.
Folle Blanche was the raw material for the brandies which were the glory of cognacs pre-phylloxera heyday. The wine it produced was so acid as to be virtually undrinkable although this was ideal for producing fine, aromatic cognac with a great depth of flavour. When grafted onto American rootstock it flourishes too vigorously and the grapes in the middle were liable to grey rot that could not be reached by anti rot sprays.