Little Known Facts about Cognac

I just ran across an article in Forbes called 6 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Cognac. There are plenty of connections with our most recent Winemaker Detective novel: Cognac Conspiracies.

  • In the article, we learn that China loves cognac. Martell's brand development manager says, "80% of our profit comes from Asia." In China, cognac is a status symbol. In Cognac Conspiracies, a family-owned cognac producer faces a hostile takeover by the Chinese.


  • The article discusses "Paradise": "Most Cognac houses have a special cellar where they keep their oldest and best vintages. The name of this exclusive storehouse: “Paradis”. If you’re lucky enough to visit one of these spaces, don’t expect much polish—they tend to packed with ancient barrels, caked with decades of dust." Well, Cooker is not invited in, but Virgile is.

Virgile tried to move away from the man, who kept touching his arm, as though knowledge were passed via his fingers. The reluctant apprentice approached the locked gate, expecting to enter what he sensed was the holy of holies.

Pierre turned to Virgile, looking him in the eye. “Nobody forces their way into paradise. Here you need a guide.”

He flipped a switch that turned on a string of old lightbulbs. “Everything is indexed, itemized, numbered, and codified. We have nothing to hide.”

With the space illuminated, Virgile could see that the demijohns in this damp cellar were draped with spider webs, which spanned decades and even centuries. Some of these vessels had rubbed shoulders with Chateaubriand, Balzac, Napoleon III, Hugo, and the Romanovs. Virgile was speechless. He had the sense that he was standing before the Shroud of Turin. On the back of his neck, Virgile could feel the excited breath of his mute companion. He was so close, Virgile didn’t dare turn around.


“Yes,” Virgile answered. A minute earlier he had been standing on the threshold of paradise. Now he was smelling sulfur. 


  • Rancio: Again from the article: "Speak to a Cognac master blender, and they’ll often use the word 'rancio' to describe a flavor present in many of the oldest and most expensive blends. But this word, which shares its etymological roots with the less-than-appetizing “rancid”, lacks an exact equivalent. 'The best answer I have is hot fruit cake,' Corvaseiur’s Pinet says. 'I know in North America fruit crake is not positive." In the book, we also encounter rancio, along many other aromas.

Marie-France compared her impressions and intuitions with Benjamin’s, which were indisputable. This blend had aromas of coffee, cacao, toast, flint, tea, or even tar. That blend gave off fragrances of butter, caramel, hot sand, hummus, or beeswax.

The winemaker continued. “But the most beautiful Lavoisier relics have woody notes: rancio, of course, oak, tropical wood, and unseasoned, even resinous, wood.”