J. Navarre

Cognac & Pineaux

Grande Champagne


all about Cognac, brandy and more ...™


Cognac, Pineaux &  Vin de Pays Charentais

Grande Champagne

Spring 2001


Guide des Mijoteux Gourmands for Poitou-Charntes, a home of Cognac region, arrived recently. With some 45 restaurants listed and none mentioning Cognac, we were curious and visited Auberge Pontoise for lunch. We were seated in what at best could be descibed as a breakfast room with uncomfortable rattan furnitures. The service was quick with rather poor selection of savories, but unsure. And then came the menu dominated by every imaginable combination of kidneys. We passed and started with Compotée de Lapin a Gelée de Févettes - good round taste, good presentation; my partner had Artichaux aux Herbs and they were very good. For the main course I ordered my annual homage to Bordeaux, Lamproie Maison à la Bordelaise. It was not disappointing but the sauce could have been lighter. My partner ordered Petite Cesserons braisés à l'Oleronoise. Tender squids in a bouillabaisse setting were clearly the best.

 When in Cognac, shop at La Cognatheque

Nice selection of cheeses and desserts of which Baba was clearly the winner, followed. Our Cote de Blaye 1997Haut Mousseau was quite acceptable. Among Cognacs we found Domaine de Bassac, Hardy, Merlin, Ragnaud-Sabourin, Delamain, Hawkins and Philippe Lalonde. Nice selection but not advertised. Cigars were available in the comfortable bar. All in all, FRF640 later, it was an experience worth 3 out 5 plates. Mac Andrew

Auberge Pontoise, 23 Avenue Gambette, 17800 Pons, Phone:+33(0)5 46 94 00 99


Officially Cognac Vintages date from 1988. It was then when BNIC decided to control through inspections and sealing of casks the age of Cognac. However, vintages from Hine, Delamain, A.E. Dor and a few other Cognac houses should be considered real vintages, as well. Those houses used to export Cognac casks to England for further aging along the river Thames. On the arrival all casks were checked, stamped and dated by the British customs. This allowed these Cognac producers to put a date on the bottle and call it a vintage. Much of the bottling was done in England but also some of it in the Cognac region when the cask returned. With the arrival of European Union (EU) these practices have stopped.

At the same time, many Cognac producers (distillers and bottlers) have for various reasons (fiscal, fashion and economic) begen selling single casks of old Cognac. Thus the challenge of identifying the age of Cognac in those old casks. The most common practice in the region is the use of Carbon-14 technique.

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Carbon dating is a technique that measures the ratio of an unstable radioactive carbon isotope, C14 to that of a stable isotope C12 in dead organic matter. The rate of disintegration of the former allows precise dating and has been widely used in archeology for example. Transformed vegetal matter, such as alcohol can also be dated using this technique and French tribunals have in the past recognized the validity of this method employed by the DGCCRF (anti-fraud unit) in France.

However extensive nuclear testing in the post-war period and the resulting increase in atmospheric radio-activity have affected the precision of this technique. For further information: www.waikato.ac.nz/c14/webinfo. Simon Palmer 

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