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The Spirit of the Grape, part II

by Gavin D Smith, 2012

Cognac Recommendations

Courvoisier Napoléon Fine Champagne Cognac
40.0%abv. Courvoisier markets itself as 'the Cognac of Napoléon,' and the Napoléon expression was created in 1910. It is a blend of Cognac from the Grande and Petite Champagne crus, which have been matured for up to 20 years. This is a classy, mainstream and affordable after-dinner Cognac. The nose features spicy dried fruits, notably prunes, Sherry, honey and Jaffa oranges. The palate is full, mellow and rounded, with more honey and oranges, plus oak notes and soft spices. Velvety and fruity in the lengthy finish. See all stockists on

Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
45.0%abv. The distillery run by the Cognac house of Pierre Ferrand dates back to 1776 and operates at the opposite end of the scale to Courvoisier, with 10 traditional 'Charentaise' pot stills in situ. A recent release is Pierre Ferrand 1840, described by owner Alexandre Gabriel as "A three-star Cognac, which gives the vibrancy of a young Cognac; up-front youth allied to older and more complex spirit. It is good for cocktails. I have embraced the mixology movement and am all for experimentation. It's done in the style of a young Cognac from 1840." The nose is relatively light and floral, with succulent grape notes, cedar and background tannins. Fruity and clean on the palate, with mixed spice and honey. The finish is medium in length, lively, with a hint of oak. See all stockists on

Delamain Tres Venerable Grande Champagne Cognac
40.0%abv. The house Delamain in Jarnac traces its origins back to pre-revolutionary times, and specialises in older Cognacs, exclusively of the XO variety, and all from the Grande Champagne cru. "We don't promote our Cognacs for cocktails - that's not really what we are about," declares Olivier Jadeau - Export Manager - Europe. Delamain Cognacs sell well in France and the UK and are now gaining a foothold in Asia. Tres Venerable Grande Champagne Cognac is blended from spirit averaging 45 to 50 years of age and was introduced back in 1976. A classic old Cognac to sip and savour. Full and smooth on the nose, with almonds, vanilla, soft caramel, ginger, liquorice and prunes. Very fruity on the subtly spiced palate, with raisins, figs and dates, backed by subtle rancio notes. Orange wine gums and oak in the luxurious, lengthy finish. See all stockists on

Hine Homage
40.0%abv. Thomas Hine from Dorset in England travelled to France in order to study the language, going on to establish his eponymous Cognac house on the banks of the river Charente at Jarnac in 1763. The company has long had a reputation for releasing respected vintage Cognacs. Hine Homage was created by cellar master Eric Forget in memory of the firm's founder, and it is a blend of three 'early landed' Grande Champagne vintage Cognacs (1984, 1986, 1987) matured in the UK, along with some older Cognacs aged in Hine's Jarnac cellars. Christmas cake mix and very ripe bananas on the nose, with Jaffa oranges, milk chocolate and ginger. Developing vanilla notes and wood polish. Lots more orange on the palate, with candied peel, ginger and fungal hints. Lengthy in the finish, with allspice and sweet orange notes, finally crystallising. See all stockists on

Delamain Early-Landed Grande Champagne Cognac 1986
40.0%abv. For The Wine Society. Single vintage Cognacs are relatively rare beasts and this exclusive bottling for The Wine Society was distilled in 1986 and shipped in cask to Bristol two years later. The cool, damp cellar in which maturation took place has given the Grande Champagne Cognac in question a different profile to that which its native region would have delivered. Bottling took place during 2007. Soft, mellow fruit notes, sultanas and cherries, on the nose. A hint of leather and polished oak duly emerge. The palate is full and spicy, with ginger, orange and steadily drying oak. The lengthy finish features more of that oak, along with dusty liquorice.

Maxime Trijol Vintage 1970
40.0%abv. Maxime Trijol has a heritage dating back to the mid-19th century, and the company distils wine from grapes grown in its own vineyards, as well as buying in wine from other sources. This 1970 vintage bottling was undertaken in March 2008, and was distilled from grapes in the Borderies region of Cognac, the smallest of the six crus and one noted for its characteristically floral, nutty and woody style of spirit. Floral on the nose, overtly violet in character, plus nougat and hints of strawberry ice cream. Hazelnuts, musty spice and warm soil on the relatively delicate palate, while strong floral notes persist. Nuts and spice in the long finish, with sustained violet character and finally very dry sherry. See all stockists on


The Grande Champagne vineyards of Pierre Ferrand

Go to part I - The Story of Cognac