Every year a piece of the small town of Cognac makes its way across the world in the millions bottles of cognac that are sold annually.
Many people have imbibed the spirit, but few know about the place from which the elixir originates. Cognac, nestled in southwest France, is full of charm and character, with an idyllic position along the Charente River. It is also the home of world-renowned cognac houses, which include the House of Martell. While your lips may be familiar with the “water of life”, should you ever find yourself in the home of the strictly regulated spirit, here are some of the things you can do.
This bed and breakfast is a home away from home, as Marie-Christine Coates and her husband welcome guests into their beautifully decorated house. This 19th century home has been renovated to offer a personalised experience in an authentic yet contemporary manner.
There are only two rooms available, each with a garden view, with the second also offering a panoramic view of the town.
Both rooms also include a living room, dressing room, and WiFi connection. One of the highlights is the breakfast, which includes homemade jam and yoghurt, served in a private dining room. mccoates-lestilleuls.jimdo.com
Hotel François Premier
This four-star hotel, located in the centre of Cognac, recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. The hotel, which was renovated in 2012, offers 21 rooms, four suites, and the ideal location from which guests can easily visit the several cellars in Cognac, take in the sites of the town on a boat ride, and enjoy a drink at the hotel’s swanky bar. hotelfrancoispremier.fr
This modern and unpretentious new kid on the block offers fresh, creative, local cuisine. Poulpette is a chef-run eatery, and recently won the Jeune Talent award from the Gault & Millau gastronomic guide for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in 2017. For guests who manage to make it to the 22-seat restaurant, offerings such as octopus, salicorn, and wild asparagus are just some of the delicacies they can enjoy. The restaurant opens at lunchtime on weekdays, and is closed on weekends. facebook.com/poulpette.cognac
Le Bistrot le Claude
Le Bistrot le Claude offers an excellent terroir menu, with both land and sea options, including traditional delicacies, such as foie gras. The bistro also offers delicious oysters typical of the region. The setting is both chic and relaxed, a true gem in the town of Cognac. bistro-de-claude.com
The modern Bar Luciole, which is new on the scene, is a cognac bar with a difference. The bar is themed in oak “to remember the barrels of cognac”, and offers a vintage feel, while remaining modern with amenities such as USB plugs for smartphones. The bar also has an impressive selection of cognacs, from both large and lesser-known houses. facebook.com/barluciole
THE HOUSE OF MARTELL
Head to the city centre to experience the oldest of the great cognac houses at the Martell visitors’ centre. Martell offers tours to suit many tastes, from packages that allow patrons to go behind the scenes and visits to the historic sites of the house, to cognac tastings. For people interested in the vine-to-g lass story, a tailor-made tour allows visitors to discover how the eaux de vie is made. Visitors can also try their hand at making the perfect cognacbased cocktails. martell.com/en-ww/visit-us
MUSÉE DES ARTS DU COGNAC
This museum at the heart of old Cognac offers a trip through time, where guests can discover the history of Cognac and the drink that has found a special place in so many people’s hearts. The museum tells the story of the town and its famed drink through looking at the history, with thousands of objects showing the evolution of the techniques, commercial strategies, and ingenuity that has seen cognac evolve over the years. musees-cognac.fr
THE COGNAC GOLDEN TICKET:
Pictures and hearsay cannot express the grandeur that is Chateau de Chanteloup. The remarkable residence of Martell founder Jean Martell stands tall amid 147ha of vineyard, and boasts centuries of history. Between 1930 and 1933, the house was rebuilt by Maurice Firino- Martell in a neo-Normandy style, as a gift to his wife. The grand manor now acts as a guesthouse for the House of Martell and is mostly used to host private guests.
Those lucky enough to spend a night at the chateau, will be delighted by the majestic castle, which opens up into a welcome hall filled with antique furniture and art collected over the centuries. The guests’ chambers are just as breathtaking, with regal interiors that include antique furniture and chandeliers. The manor’s staff enhance the experience, providing discreet, professional service, including delicious pairing menus that are expertly and freshly prepared. To top it off, guests are invited to help themselves to a fully stocked bar of different expressions of Martell cognac, including rare ones, which can be enjoyed on the lush lawns inhabited by the resident deer. Visits to the house are strictly by invitation only.