Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You may call me a connoisseur

Bonjour mes amis! Je suis allé en France. C’etais tres bon. J’ai visité Bordeaux, Cognac et quelques endroits plus petits....Et actuellement, je moi considere etre une connaisseur de cognac.

Well, that pretty much sums up my trip to France, i give all of you enough credit that you understood it, n’est pas? I was treated to the trip so i kind of had to take what i was offered and couldn’t make my own way around. Parts of it were really good and parts of it...not so much. Like for instance the very first day, of which most was spent on flying to Paris, plus a bus ride to Bordeaux, which was a torture, for i was still rather ill, did not feel like drinking and all the rest of the people in the group were as drunk as sailors. But, that meant that it could only get better and so it did. If it were for me, we would’ve spent a lot more time in Bordeaux, because from what i saw it’s a great city – big enough (1 million) but small enough (the old town); old enough (beautiful architecture) but new enough (the trendy bars, cafes and shopping places).

Cognac town was ok, but too small to be anything special – seen loads of cities like that. And the little town called Saint-Emilion was adorable but as it was not the tourist season, it was dead as disco.

I loved 2 things about the trip. First, the fact that i actually learned a lot of new stuff (there’s a little Karl Pilkington in all of us:) I now know about Armagnag, Pousse Rapiere, Cognac and Pineau....and yes, you are correct, if you guessed they’re all different types of alcohol. And second, i loved the way we were treated at the Maxime Trijol Cognac destillery. They’re the biggest destillery in Cognac region and still a family business. The current owner Jean-Jacques Trijol himself was filling our glasses with real champagne, his wife and daughters were serving us delicious hors d’oeuvres and 60, 70 and 80-year old cognacs were open for us on the bar. I’m not much of a cognac drinker but i must say even i can tell there’s a different kind of smoothness to the 80-year old cognac when compared to a 10-year old.

So, what did i learn. First, the drinks:
- Pousse Rapiere – a delicious cocktail of brut sparkling wine and a bit of Pousse Rapiere liqueur. Perfect as an appetizer. Take a look at how to prepare it here and here.
- Armagnac – a cognac-like drink but as the destillation process is different, it’s not as smooth, it’s a little more bitter and of course, as it’s produced in the Armagnac reagion, it can’t be called cognac...but armagnac.
- Pineau – a sweet drink of cognac and grape juice, quite tasty, i might add.
- Cognac – well, cognac gets a whole passage:)

What i learned about cognac:
- It’s made out of fresh wine, which is destilled and mixed 7 times, to get the 70% of alcohol concentration eau-de-vie, which then goes into the barrels to mature.
- The barrels are made only of oak trees, which mostly come from the Limousine woods.
- Each year 0,3% of the alcohol concentration vaporises through the oak (it’s called the “part for the angels”), which means the cognac has to be bottled at least after 100 years, since by the law it can’t be less than 40% of alcohol. After bottling, the drink’s characteristics do not change any more.
- The walls of the houses or the cellars where cognac is maturing, turn black from the alcohol vaporisation, making them easily spotted from afar.
- Cognac tasting for blending and for determining the state of it in tha barrels is done every day around 11 o’clock before eating, when the taste buds are the most alert.
-V.S. means Very Special and has to mature at least 2 years in a barrel; V.S.O.P. means Very Superior Old Pale and has to mature at least 4 years and X.O. means Extra Old and has to mature at least 7 years. However, these are just legal requirements – every respectable cognac maker has set their own rules and they are always by far higher than 2, 4 or 7 years and the connoissurs can tell it from the taste easily.


Karupoeg Pohhui said...

Arvan, et connoisseur'ix saamiseni on sul veel väga pikk tee:) aga why not ... kätte võtmise asi ju. Aga usun, et väga hariv reis oli ja seda 2, 4 ja 7 asja ma ei teadnudki.

Hernes said...

Kle, muidugi, eputan niisama:) Ma ei tahagi veel konjaki konassööriks saada, liiga noor veel. Ma esialgu õpin seda destilleerimata konjakit ehk veini tundma.