Nearly a century and the assistance of the French government were needed for Cognac professionals to define a framework that preserves the authenticity and uniqueness of Cognac, from vineyard to market. Those who fail to respect its regulations cannot be allowed to use the name of the controlled appellation of origin Cognac.
The decrees of the Cognac Appellation
The Cognac AOC – appellation d’origine contrôlée or controlled appellation of origin – is governed by three main legal texts:
- The May 1 st, 1909 modified decree establishes the General Area for the production of Cognac, that is, what is known as the "Delimited Region".
- The May 15th, 1936 modified decree defines the controlled appellations of « Cognac », « Eau-de-vie de Cognac » and « Eau-de-Vie des Charentes ».
- The January 13th, 1938 modified decree defines the various controlled ppellations areas within the Delimited Region.
The Area of Production
The Delimited Region
for the production of Cognac was established by the decree of May 1st, 1909.
It includes the entire department of the Charente-Maritime, most of the department of Charente
and small parts of the Deux-Sèvres and Dordogne departments.
Vineyard, Grape Varieties
According to the 1936 decree
, the following grape varieties only can be used for the production
of wine for the Controlled Appellations Cognac, Eau-de-vie
de Cognac and Eau-de-vie des
- Colombard, Folle Blanche, Jurançon blanc, Meslier Saint-François, Montils, Sémillon, and Ugni Blanc.
- Folignan, Sélect (each representing a maximum of 10% of the plantings).
Terroir, Growing Areas
The Delimited Area is made up of six districts of production as defined by the 1938 decree :
- Grande Champagne
- Petite Champagne
- Fins Bois
- Bons Bois
- Bois ordinaires or Bois à Terroir
Wines used for producing eaux-de-vie under the controlled appellations "Grande Champagne", "Petite Champagne", "Fine Champagne", "Borderies", "Fins Bois", and "Bons Bois" come from the following grape varieties (1938 Decree):
- Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni blanc
- Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Montils, Sélect, and Sémillon (each representing a maximum of 10% of the plantings)
- Addition of sugar (1936 Decree)
- Charente................................... Absolute ban,
- Charente Maritime..................... idem, additionnally, a certificate of non-sugaring must be provided.
- Prohibition of the use of the Archimedes' screw press (continuous press) (1936 Decree).
Cognac is distilled following a specific, traditional, two-stage method (1936 Decree):
- Charentaise method by production of "brouillis" (first distillation) and "repasse" (second distillation).
- Use of a traditional Charentais still of a total capacity not exceeding 30 hl and a maximum load of 25 hl for the second distillation known as "bonne chauffe".
- Maximum alcohol content of distillation: 72 % alcohol by volume at 15°C (59 ºF).
- Distillation must be completed by March 31st following the harvest.
Cognac's commercialization must respect a set of rules in order to carry the Cognac Controlled Appellation of Origin.
Storage and Ageing
- Ageing may only take place in a storage facility registered by the BNIC, This registration is mandatory to obtain the necessary Cognac certificates guaranteeing age and origin that only the BNIC is authorized to issue for export operations. (2003 executive Order)
- Ageing must take place In oak casks (using Limousin or Tronçais-type oak, "sessile" or "pedunculate" oak, according to use).
- Inventory and Age control performed by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) (2003 executive Order).
- Minimum ageing for maketable Cognac: ageing compte 2 (24 months following the end of the distillation period)