Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cognac & Pineau - A visit to JLP Cognac Pasquet - Organic Producer

A family-run production - Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet
On a cold but sunny day in November a group of us from my women's club headed 2 hours North to the Cognac region.  We were all interested in learning more about Cognac and our local drink pineau.  We arrived at Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet in the late morning and we were immediately mesmerized by this beautiful location in Eraville about 30 minutes Southeast of the village of Cognac.
We were warmly greeted by Jean and his wife, Amy and they proceeded to tell us the passionate story of how they evolved into being an organic producer of Cognac.

This property traces its family ties back to 1730 having been transmitted directly or indirectly within the same family.  In 1971 Jean-Luc Pasquet (Jean's father) inherited the estate from his uncle and created the brand.  Their property sits in the highly desirable terrior of the Grand Champagne growth area of Cognac.  (Most of the big Cognac houses use grapes only from the growth areas of Grand and Petit Champagne.)  These days, it's Jean who has taken over the production from his father.

JLP- Domaine Pasquet continued to produce cognac in the traditional way, up until 1994 when some of their grapes on one of their plots started showing poor health leading them to discover the practice of organic farming.  After a year of experimentation, in 1995 they converted the entire vineyard in order to receive the Organic Agricultural Label in 1998. 

Their cognacs are blended mainly from the Ugni Blanc grape variety but in recent years they have began adding another grape variety of Folle Blanche.  This particular variety was devastated in the late 1800's by the phylloxera crisis but is slowly making a comeback as it adds finesse and richness to the eau de vie.

As we wandered through the property, Jean expained to us how Cognac is made and why it's so special, in addition to being a passion of his family.  So what makes Cognac different than other brandies?
Making Cognac is a multi-step process.  The process begins similar to making wine.  Grapes are harvested each fall and the bunches are pressed and then placed in the vat for fermentation.  By using natural yeasts and with absence of sulphates, a true local product is started.

Once fermentation is completed, next comes the distillation or the burning of the wine.  In the Cognac region, they follow a traditional Charentais method of double distillation.  This double distillation or adding the second heater or "bonne chauffe"  is specific to this region and is one of the reasons Cognac is different than other brandies.

This practice allows Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet to obtain a fine and fragrant eaux de vie (the general name of the product after it's been distilled). 
However, it's the aging process that really allows cognacs in general to have their finesse and elegance.  For JLP-Domaine Pasquet, their eau de vie is aged in oak barrels, exclusively from the forests of the Limousin region.  It's the merging of the eau de vie and the wood that transforms the white eau de vie into a subtle, rich and elegant cognac.
The unique blends of Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet are achieved by blending different vintages and different ages of the eau of vie allowing each product to have a unique aromatic richness.  Their cognacs range in age from 4 to 45 years old.  This age is the number of years it has been aged in the oak barrels.  For their organic labels - they have 4,  7 and 10 year old cognacs as they can only use the grapes from after their Organic approval.

They also sell older cognac blends that are not organic, these blend eau de vie that came from prior to being certified organic. 
Of course, we got to taste their cognacs and  honestly, they were delicious!  What I loved about their blends is that being a small producer they can be creative with their blends - they are not just striving for one particular taste - they look for what can be expressed from blending different vintages and now even blending different grapes also.
In addition to producing cognac - Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet also makes pineau.  What is pineau?  Pineau is a blend of fresh pressed grape juice (from the Ugni Blanc and Montils grapes varieties)  mixed with eau de vie.  This mixture is then aged for 18 months in oak barrels.  Pineau is known more locally as a specialty and each producers creates their own.  I found their Pineau to be fresh and light with aromas of pears, spices and raisins.  The taste complex and fruity with a hint of oak.  I have to say, I really enjoyed their blend.  Pineau by the nature of its blend, is lighter than cognac, but I have found many to be stronger in oak flavor than theirs.
This passionate family has also introduced some other unique products which are only produced by them:

The first:  Raisignac - a sparkling blend of grape juice and eau de vie.  This sparkling drink is a great appertif or can be drank with dessert.  One could call it a bubbly pineau full of fruit yet light in flavor.
Finally: my new favorite:
Marie-Framboise:  This delicate blend of freshly pressed grape juice, macerated raspberries and cognac is pure genius.  This fruity blend is enchanting and can be drank alone or blended with sparkling water.  It's great as an aperitif or served with dessert.  If you love raspberries, you will enjoy this unique creation. 
We all fully enjoyed our tour that day of Domaine Jean-Luc Pasquet.  What a discovery!  The passion that this family has is beautifully demonstrated by their dedication to their organic production and by their innovative products.  A unique treasure to be discovered by all accounts. 

If you see their brand, give it a try and if are ever in the Cognac region - they are definitely worth a visit!!

You can find out more about them on their website : 
follow them on Facebook - JLP - Cognac Pasquet

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