Grande ChampagneGrande Champagne
, 11,000 hectares or 27,182 acres, is the region located just south of the Charente River, and is considered the finest of the sub-regions. (Why “Champagne”? The word is derived from the Latin “campus”, meaning a rural field or landscape; in old French, ”campagna”, means “country side,” where one can set up a camp and/or start cultivating different crops, including grapes.) Chalk concentration is the primary factor in determining the quality of each sub-region. The higher the level of chalk, the better the wine is for distilling into cognac because it provides a consistent water delivery system for the roots of the vines and is rich in calcium carbonate. Also, chalk at the surface of the soil absorbs the heat of the sun during the day and radiates the warmth back to the vines at night.
A vineyard's proximity to the ocean is also an important factor in determining the quality of a cognac. That is because regions that are relatively closer to the Atlantic benefit from the cooling effects of the maritime winds, nearby water and ocean-borne weather. The exposure of the hillside vineyards is also important. Grande Champagne is the region’s most hilly area, with most vineyards having a southern exposure that helps the grapes reach maturity.
All of these factors help produce full-bodied eaux-de-vie
that are aromatic and good for long aging. These eaux-de-vie
come into maturity at approximately 15 years of age and some can age for an astonishing 150 years.
A cognac is not necessarily good just because it is from Grande Champagne, but all of the greatest cognacs utilize fruit from this region.Petite Champagne
Most of Petite Champagne also sits south of the Charente River and surrounds Grande Champagne. With a total area of 17,000 hectares, or 42,000 acres, the soil in Petite Champagne is chalky, too, but the layer of chalk is less compact than that in Grande Champagne.
This region produces eaux-de-vie that have less ageability, but are more elegant and fruity than those from Grande Champagne. These tend to reach maturity at seven to eight years of age, but this depends on many factors, including the specific vineyard site, the type of aging used, and the characteristics of the vintage.
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