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Famous Cognac Houses

  • The Good & Great Cognac House - Chateau Montifaud

    Perhaps this is one of cognac’s little gems or maybe just lucky to have found a slice of land that is both ideal for their needs and of sufficient size to make adequate wines for their needs. The Vallet family who run this rather modern looking Chateau are now in their sixth generation, the vineyard was created by Augustin Vallet in 1837 and over the years he has been succeeded by Pierre, Maurice, Louis and Michel. In 2000 Laurent Vallet has joined his father as the sixth generation to run this fine house.

    The firm is situated in Petite Champagne d’Archiac and currently has about 75 hectares of vine which makes on current production permits around 700 hectolitres of pure spirit or around 170,000 bottles of cognac every year. Their style is lighter than others around the area and they use a small percentage of both Colombard and Folle Blanche in with the Ugni Blanc. The firm distil on the lees and this together with the added fruitiness of the Colombard grapes creates a fruity style reminiscent of Apricots.

    Perhaps though, the most interesting thing about this firm is that although they are firmly situated in Petite Champagne, they also have a small vineyard which is in Grande Champagne and is used almost exclusively for the production of a ten year old cognac of a most magical style and showing extremely soft and well balanced properties.

    The family tradition is that when a new family member comes into the business a quantity of cognac from that year is laid aside for future generations and stocks of old cognacs in their cellars still date from 1920. Montifaud’s production is modern and control of SO2 is good thus preventing oxidation of the wines after crushing. They use no additives and ageing is natural with a percentage of their vintage cognacs being aged in Tronçais oak barrels.

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Delamain

    Delamain is one of the oldest cognac houses, it’s history dates back to around 1759 when James Delamain returned from Ireland. The family had emigrated there in 1625 in the suite of Henrietta Maria, the sister of the French King Louis XIII and wife of Charles I.

    Three years after his return he joined his father in law, Isaac Ranson, perhaps one of the most famous names in 18th century negoçiant's. La Rochelle was widely regarded by foreigners around 1700 as the port where brandies were shipped and the Ransons were believed to be trading around 1700 but were involved in a famous brandy dispute in 1604. After James Delamain returned from Ireland, Isaac Ranson gave James the Paris business which effectively safeguarded him from the Irish recession in the early 1760’s. The firm became known as Ranson & Delamain and were almost certainly the biggest shippers at the time and were associated with other famous names such as Augier, Richard, Guérinet, Brunet and Riget.

    In the early 19th century the Delamains cousins, the Roullets entered the business and it became known as Roullet & Delamain, a name which existed for more than a hundred years. By 1920 the firm reverted back to just Delamain and remains a family firm: mothers and grandmothers of the directors Alain Braastard and Patrick Peyrelongue were nêe Delamain. The firm is now managed by Alain’s son Charles is situated on the Charente at Jarnac and supplies quite oaky cognacs from its attractive cellars.

    Many of the cognacs it supplies are quite pale in colour and giving rise to the best known brand, Pale and Dry. Today, and for commercial reasons most of their more modern cognacs contain sugar syrup and caramel but some of their early vintages are regarded by many as traditional English cognacs.

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Bisquit

    The house was established in Jarnac by one Alexandre Bisquit who at only 20 started trading in salt, one of the regions oldest staple products. He became mayor of Jarnac for a while in 1848 after the revolution and was a staunch Republican. His daughter married Adrien Debouché who added his name to the firm and their daughter married Maurice Laporte, a notable local figure who became a senator. Laporte was also active in the business increasing sales especially to China and the Far East.

    The firm grew steadily until in 1965 the family sold the business to Paul Ricard, owner of Ricard Pastis. They were effectively negoçiant's but this changed when they bought the Chateau de Lignères in the Fins Bois near Rouillac The estate with 200 hectares is quite large and M Ricard planted it all with vines. The company has grown under the influence of Ricard but the quantity of grapes it produces is only sufficient for about 18% of its total requirement. Later Paul Ricard moved the firms distillery and cellars from the historic site on the river next to Hine to Lignères where he built the biggest distillery in the region, a massive modern installation holding 64 stills. The new warehouse is equipped with vast stacks, each lodged in its own cell so that it can be easily moved by fork trucks. The premises are carefully insulated and the humidity controlled to ensure that the brandy matures at the same rate as it did when it was next to the Charente.

    The earlier Biscquit brandies were designed to be more fruity than others, perhaps by allowing more of the secondes in at the final stage than other firms. More lately, the need for more brandy and faster sales has resulted in much greater blending with the inevitable results.

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