The Unexpected Cognac, France

By Suzette Barnett

I left Bordeaux that morning and had a full day ahead of me with my teeny tiny SmartCar rental. With no agenda in sight, I hit the freeway and eventually saw a sign for the town of Cognac. I'm thinking, wait, Cognac? As in the drinking spirit Cognac? Could it be possible that's what this town is about? 

I parked at the flower-lined river and walked into the Tourism Office. How did I find it, you ask? A sandwich board sign outside a Medieval building. Sure enough, this is the home of Cognac. 


I followed their recommendation and off I went to the Martell Distillery for a tour and tasting. Martell is the Oldest of the Great Cognac Houses and I recommend you see their website for a very short but beautifully made video to introduce you to their facilities. 

At the end of the tour we had a tasting in a big, quiet, open room. Our guide gently poured tasting glasses for us. I had never tried Cognac, ever, and I had no idea what to expect. I took a sip.. then choked and gasped for air. Totally embarrassing. Maybe Cognac isn't for me.

I later read something that said, 'the brandy can not be the only key to understanding the city of Cognac, our rich history and heritage goes far beyond the spirits'. Their rich history actually dates back to before the 11th Century.

I took delight in wandering through the small cobblestone streets of the "Old Town", grabbed some fresh fruit and took pictures along the way. I can definitely understand why people like it here; it's quaint, well cared for, rich in history and they have a mild, sunny climate. And they have their own river running through the town (the River Charente).


I've learned that Cognac actually has lovely B&Bs, outdoor markets, festivals and museums. Like many towns across France, the summer festival in Cognac seems to really be a big production and 3 days of vibrant food, drink and music. I'd like to see that some day.

Here are some resources, should you be interested in visiting Cognac, France:

Discover Poitou Charentes: The Beautiful Town of Cognac

Cognac Festival, 24, 25 and 26 July 2014

Discounted Rail Europe Tickets

French Villa Rentals: Simply Chateau

Air France: Low Fares from US to France and Europe

Vueling Airlines: Best Fares from France and Europe