A few weeks ago I went to France to learn about cognac. One of the stops was the house of Cognac Frapin.
Frapin sells only estate-grown/distilled/aged cognac, produced in the Grande Champagne delimited region of the cognac area near the town of Segonzac.
Frapin is a massively impressive operation from the cellars to the blending room designed by Mr. Eiffel (yes that one) to the bangin' castle they own where we had lunch.
We first looked at the bottles, which are unusual for a few reasons. First of all, they sell not only vintage cognacs but multi-vintage cognacs of their "Multimilleseme" line with the three vintages in each. The years are listed on the labels.
To sell vintage-dated cognac, the brand must be able to prove that it comes from the year on the label. As the government didn't track this until relatively recently, this was a hard thing to prove, but some brands like Frapin clearly had their paperwork in order.
One thing I didn't notice until I looked on their website it that they have one bottling with a minimum age statement- "15 years old" stating that the youngest cognac in the bottle is 15 years old. I didn't know this was legal in cognac but I guess they are able to prove it. (Other brands have vintage dates like 1980 but not usually a minimum vintage- only a single vintage.)
I stated in a previous post that the aging process for cognac is a dynamic one and I think the product description (taken from the website) of the 15 year old really demonstrates what a cognac can go through before it hits the bottle:
Aging: Only 6 months in new oaks from Limousine area to preserve the fruit and characteristic of the Cognac. Then, 10 years in red casks (5 years old cask). Aged 8 years in dry chai and 2 years in humid chai. Then the cognac is blended with older cognac Grand Champagne from Frapin to add complexity from the very old Eu de Vie and aged a other 5 years in very old cask in a humid chai to mature the blend.
What is the difference between a dry chai and a humid chai? More on than in a later post. Also more on the dusty cellars later. The spiderwebs in cognac cellars are not a bug but a feature.
After the cellar tour, we had lunch at the Chateau de Fontpinot that is, as it looks, rather lovely.