One of the most amazing experiences of my life was as a guest of Courvoisier, staying at Chateau Courvoisier in Jarnac, France.
After a two day visit to Paris, arranged as a treat for us by Courvoisier, we arrived by train to the station at Angouleme and were ferried through the beautiful countryside to the imposing chateau, overlooking the River Charente in Jarnac. The first thing I noticed was the amazing smell of cognac which to this day takes me right back to the chateau.
We were shown to our classically elegant room for a quick freshen up before being treated to a welcome lunch of fish and asparagus, accompanied by fine wine and of course, Courvoisier cognac.
After lunch we were given a tour of the Courvoisier museum which provided some background to the brand and introduced us to its long history. Then we were driven to the stunning vineyards to see how the whole process begins. It is the chalky soil of the Champagne region that creates the unique cognac flavour.
Once the grapes are harvested, they are processed in the distillery where the ‘eaux de vie’ or water of life is created which will be aged to become fine cognac. As an aromatherapist, I was particularly interested in the distillation process as it is similar to the process used to extract essential oil from plants.
I just can’t begin to explain to you how amazing the distillery smells!
Back at the chateau late afternoon, we had some free time, so off we went to explore the town of Jarnac. We had a coffee in the little square and enjoyed a spot of retail therapy whilst drinking in the atmosphere.
We commenced the evening with Courvoisier cocktails. How very civilised! This was followed by a sumptuous dinner with cognac pairing. Prior to my visit I had no appreciation of cognac, so this was a pretty amazing learning experience. Dinner was hosted by Patrice Pinet, the Master Blender or ‘Le Nez’ of Courvoisier who afterwards, guided us through the cellars where the finest cognac is housed in French oak barrels. We were taught about the ‘angel’s share’ which is caused by evaporation and were then treated to a tasting of the very special VSOP Exclusif.
Next morning we visited the cooperage to see how the barrels are made. This is an amazing place and the guys there work so hard in the heat! The skill that goes into making barrels really has to be seen to be believed!
Back at the chateau, we were given the opportunity to taste the range of cognacs and to understand the difference between them. I established that my favourite is XO: always did have expensive taste!
We were then guided through ‘Le Nez’ XO sensory experience which took place in an especially designed room which allowed us to identify and appreciate each of the different ‘notes’ that make up the aroma of the cognac. This really taps into the limbic system and I know that I will never again smell Courvoisier cognac without being transported back to the chateau.
After another amazing lunch, we had free time to explore the area and walk along the beautiful river.
That afternoon we were in for a real treat! Boarding a Gabare river boat, we sailed along the Charente, once more enjoying Courvoisier cocktails! This time they were accompanied by oysters, and salmon on brown bread. Very decadent!
Our boat trip culminated with a visit to the Michelin starred La Ribaudiere restaurant where we had a cooking lesson using the most amazing ingredients. We tucked into our efforts at dinner and I have to say I was pretty impressed.
The following morning, the final piece of the processing journey was a visit to the ageing cellars and the bottling plant. That fabulous smell again!
After an al fresco lunch at a local restaurant we were very sad to be on the train back to Paris, but so grateful for this amazing experience. I will never forget the chateau and I’m a now a Courvoisier lover!! Thanks so much Courvoisier for your fantastic hospitality.