Escape London: summer vacation in Cognac France

With fields full of glorious sunflowers, great food, grand old castles and dozens of ways to experience its eponymous spirit, a trip to Cognac in France makes for a delightful short break just a few hours from London, writes Judith Baker. .

Main picture: Remy Martin

Being driven through sunny fields and small villages in a vintage 2CV with the wind in your hair was the perfect way to head for a picnic in the Grande Champagne vineyard, Cognac.

The Cognac region in south-west France has more stills than Scotland and the largest white vineyard in France, whose grapes are made for cognac.


Cognac, France
– Discover Cognac

This fruitful region is full of stunning scenery, friendly people and interesting traditions, and despite an image of old boys with their brandy and cigars, the cognac spirit now attracts us to a wider market.

Cognac food pairings, cocktail-making lessons, cask-making demonstrations, and an e-bike ride through a vineyard, not to mention that ride in the gorgeous 2CV, are just some of the ways to savor cognac in every way .


Cognac, France

Cognac, France
– Discover Cognac

Cognac houses

In the depths of the dusty historic cellars of Bache Gabrieleen with rich aromas, I took on the challenge of the cellar master to recreate his cognac blend by sniffing, tasting, looking and mixing.

The result wasn’t quite as good as the glass of Rémy Martin I later sipped in front of a windmill in the famous producer’s vineyard accompanied by a pineapple macaroon after an invigorating buggy ride through the vines in the sun.

There are 200 cognac producers in the region including big names such as Hennessey, Martell and Remy Martin but increasingly smaller houses. Each cognac house has a tour that explains the cognac-making process and its diversity.

Unlike the modern and refined distillery that I saw at Rémy Martin, the rustic Les Frères Moines vineyard is a family business created in the 1980s, in Chassors, in the heart of the Charente vineyards. Their tour included a demonstration of barrel-making techniques that haven’t changed for centuries.

It’s part of the charm of Cognac that my guide, Yann, who escorted me to his country distillery here, appeared the following night as a mellow DJ at the chic rooftop bar of the Chais Monnet hotel.


Monk Brothers, Cognac

Monk Brothers, Cognac
– Friar Monks

Cognac

The pretty town of Cognac with its narrow cobbled streets, beautiful 11th century St Léger church and 17th century buildings, shops and covered market is small enough to stroll around in an hour or two.

Do not miss the Château de Cognac on the Charente, the birthplace of François 1st.

The town may seem sleepy, but it comes alive in July with the Cognac Blues Passion Festival, a four-day event that has seen Ray Charles and BB King in its 29-year history.

Crowds fill the streets as festival music in the Public Gardens fills the air.


Bache Gabrielsen, Cognac

Bache Gabrielsen, Cognac
-Bache Gabrielsen

Cocktail Bars in Cognac

Germain, the owner of Bar Louise, in the center of Cognac, organizes cocktail-making sessions which allow visitors to create their own cocktails such as Sidecar (cognac, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice) or Sazerac (made with cognac , absinthe, sugar and bitters).

Cognac mixologists like to tell you that the Sazerac was one of the world’s first cocktails, first sipped in New Orleans in 1838. You’re never far from a Cognac or a cocktail. throughout the region, but for good vibes and panoramic views, head to one of the rooftop bars in the city of Cognac like the Indigo Bar by Martell at the top of the Tour Gatebourse or Le Rooftop de l’ Hotel Chais Monnet.


Remy Martin Distillery

Remy Martin Distillery
– Remy Martin Alberto Bocos

Restaurants in Cognac

Cognac is full of delicious places to eat, from small cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants such as Poulpette, an intimate downtown gem with a menu of local dishes and a gluten-free option.

Cozy Chez Aristide is on a narrow street and La Maison is a modern, airy space serving contemporary French cuisine

Located on the Charente with views of the historic castles, the Bistro Château Ribaudière is an ideal place for a quiet Sunday lunch.


Monk Brothers, Cognac

Monk Brothers, Cognac
– Friar Monks

Where to stay in Cognac

There are some good hotels in the center of Cognac, such as the elegant new Chais Monnet & Spa and the traditional four-star François Premier. Or stay in the nearby countryside at characterful rural properties such as Hotel Karina in Jarnac, 20 minutes from town.

Gites, self-catering holiday homes, are always popular with British visitors and you will find charming and affordable homes in Cognac perfect for families or groups of friends.


Monk Brothers, Cognac

Monk Brothers, Cognac
– Friar Monks

Things to do around Cognac

Cognac is ideally located for exploring other parts of western France, including the city of Bordeaux, around two hours away, with its sophisticated shops, restaurants and hotels.

Fifty miles from Cognac, the medieval coastal town of La Rochelle is known for its seafood and the nearby islands of Île de Ré and Île d’Oléron have charming villages, small ports and sandy beaches. sand.

EasyJet flies to Bordeaux from London Gatwick.

For more information on Cognac, visit tourism-cognac.com or cognac.fr

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