Charente wine tourism
What is wine tourism?
First of all, it is important to know that France is the world’s leading tourist destination and also the leading exporter of wines and spirits.
In France, wine tourism is an expanding sector, attracting both French and foreign visitors. This increase is explained by the desire to discover French know-how and local gastronomy. People are looking to find out which foods go well together. Which cheese goes with which wine? Which wine goes with which fish? When we mention the word “wine tourism”, we instinctively think of visiting wine cellars. But wine tourism goes much further than that, and there is a wealth of activities in this field.
The name wine tourism suits the sector perfectly. Indeed, it represents the meeting of the wine and tourism sectors. Wine tourism is a form of tourism based on the discovery of wine regions, the winegrower’s profession and the products. The aim of this tourism is to discover a region and its treasures.
Let’s go back a bit in time
The French are known to be great wine producers. We therefore think that wine tourism is a concept invented by the French. But no! It is in the United States, and more precisely in California, that this concept was invented. It appeared in the 1970s. The Californian vineyard was in full expansion and the wine growers decided to combine the work of the vine with tourism. They began to offer guided tours and tastings through their vineyards. This is how wine tourism was born!
Let’s go back to France now. Wine tourism arrived late in France and in Europe. It was only in 1953 that it was introduced with the creation of the first wine route in Alsace. Today, in France, there are about fifteen wine routes, such as those in Bordeaux, in Provence or in Burgundy.
Promoting French heritage
France’s heritage is very rich. Let’s take a closer look. Tourism and heritage are two complementary notions. They enhance and reinforce each other. These two terms have a common goal, to promote the domain or the place. Oenology is one of the most renowned heritages in the world. Indeed, three French vineyards have been classified by UNESCO. These are Saint Emilion, Burgundy and Champagne.
In France, wine tourism has three major roles. An economic role, thanks to trade, distribution and the dynamism of production. An environmental role in the preservation of the landscape. And finally a cultural role with an influence on the traditions of the French.
Wine tourism allows tourists to discover the riches of France. This tourism now targets a new public, an increasingly local clientele. Following the current health context, wine tourism activities have targeted a different clientele than before. In recent years, this offer has attracted a clientele made up of French wine lovers or epicureans and has expanded to include 71 destinations with the Vignobles et Découvertes label, such as visits to châteaux, tastings or even restaurants.
A wine tourism offer in Charente
You may already know the town of Cognac. Indeed, this little town in the south-west of France is popular all over the world. It is a very pleasant place with many tourist activities. Cognac is also the birthplace of Francis I and the birthplace of the pleasant beverage of the same name, Cognac. In the Cognac region, this spirit is at the centre of the economy. The Cognac vineyard is a vineyard with a worldwide reputation and an exceptional terroir between land and sea. Its clay-limestone soil gives extraordinary and unique characteristics to Cognac. The Cognac vineyards cover 80,500 hectares and are divided into 6 crus: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins-Bois, Bons-Bois and Bois-Ordinaires.
This spirit is produced from white grapes, mainly Ugni Blanc. To further illustrate this, it is important to know that the Cognac vineyards are the largest white grape vineyards in Europe.
What is Cognac ?
First and foremost, Cognac is a blend of eaux de vie. This Cognac eau de vie will be produced following a double distillation of white wine in a Charentais copper still. The result of these two heatings measure 70° by volume. The eau de vie is then aged in oak barrels. Following this ageing, we will have either a Very Special or VS Cognac, a blend of eaux de vie with a minimum ageing of 2 years, a Very Superior Old Pale or VSOP Cognac (minimum 4 years), an Extra Old or XO Cognac (minimum 6 years) and an Extra Cognac.
If you are a cocktail lover, you will love cognac! It goes perfectly with cocktails. You can try the Carmélybar: a cocktail made with YBAR caramel (one of our liqueurs), Raby VS Cognac, syrup or chocolate sauce and espresso coffee. You can find this recipe on our website www.cognac-raby.com.
If you see the blackened walls of buildings in our region, don’t panic! This phenomenon is due to a small fungus, called torula compniacensis, which feeds on alcohol vapours. This evaporation of alcohol is called “the angel’s share” and the torula is very fond of it. You will find this fungus on all the walls of buildings containing eau de vie in the Charente.
What are the different wine tourism activities available in Cognac?
You will be able to discover our beautiful region through visits to wine estates, cellars, large trading houses but also small family houses and wine or cognac tastings accompanied by passionate winemakers who will pass on their precious know-how.
You will notice through all these discoveries, that Cognac is not the only alcohol made in Cognac. You will also discover our Pineaux des Charentes or our Charentais wines.
Grande Champagne Cognac
What is a Remarkable Taste Site (Site Remarquable du Goût)?
A Remarkable Taste Site is a French label of recognition for tourism and gastronomy awarded to products that are emblematic of a region. The National Federation of remarkable taste site was founded in 1996 with the aim of promoting a terroir, a product and to encourage exchanges between members.
In order to be a Remarkable Taste Site, a production site must meet various criteria. First of all, the place must have an emblematic product with a history and a reputation. Then it must have a certain heritage which must stand out at the architectural and environmental level linked to the production. It must welcome the public in a way that enables them to discover the links between the product, the heritage, the people and the landscapes. Finally there must be an organisation of the actors around the four facets of the concept: agriculture, culture, environment and tourism.
The Alsace Wine Route is a member of the Remarkable Taste Site label. The Alsatian vineyards, protected by the Vosges mountains, have a very specific climate. Exceptional soils give Alsace wines a rich aromatic character. The Route des Vins d’Alsace crosses 170km of Alsace vineyards. Châteauneuf du Pape is also a member of the Remarkable Taste Site with its very special wines. This wine from the southern Rhône Valley became an AOC in 1936, thanks in particular to the town’s architectural heritage. Finally, you can find Saint-Emilion, a red wine of controlled origin produced around the town of Saint-Emilion, wich is registered as a Remarkable Taste Site.
Back to our Grande Champagne Cognac
Grande Champagne covers more than 35,000 hectares, representing 17% of the total production of Cognac eau de vie. The “capital” of this very special cru, with its clay-limestone soil, is Segonzac. Every year, on the first weekend of February, the association Remarkable Taste Site of Grande Champagne organises a fair which brings together many producers of products with the label Remarkable Taste Site. These producers come from all over France. You will be able to taste and buy these labelled products. You will also be able to take part in activities around Cognac, such as visits to working distilleries or workshops on Cognac.
The Maison de la Grande Champagne
The Maison de la Grande Champagne is a French association of about twenty producers of Cognac, Pineau des Charentes and Charentais wines. This association was created about twenty years ago, with the aim of promoting the products of Grande Champagne. The winegrowers who are members of this Maison take it turns to welcome visitors. The Maison de la Grande Champagne is in the centre of Segonzac (next to the tourist office), in Charente. This shop is open from Monday to Sunday morning and from Wednesday to Sunday (out of season).
The Maison G&C Raby is a member of the Maison de la Grande Champagne. Join us to discover and taste a selection of our best Cognac wines from the Grande Champagne appellation area.
Come and meet us
Come and meet us at our Logis de la Brée, 3 Bis route de la Brée, 16 130 Segonzac. You will find yourself at the heart of the history of double distillation. You will meet Gérard Raby and his daughter Cécile who will show you their property with love and passion. This family exploits a total of 42 hectares of vines, divided into 4 grape varieties: Ugni blanc, Merlot, Colombard and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, you can attend a free tour of the property which will end with a free tasting of G&C Raby products. You will discover all the stages in the production of cognac, the history of the Raby family, the working tools, the different vintages, the distillation with the Charentais stills and the storage of the eaux de vie. Through this visit, you will feel the passion of Gérard and Cécile for their profession.
This visit will end in our shop, where you will be able to have a look at our wide range of products: Charentais local wines, Pineaux des Charentes, Cognacs, grape juice and liqueurs.If you are interested in visiting our estate, you can book your visit online via the website www.ruedesvignerons.com. We offer visits from Monday to Saturday at 10.30am and 3.30pm. Our shop is located on our estate and is open without appointment from Monday to Friday from 9am to 12 pm and from 2pm to 6pm. Our tours are available in French or English. We can welcome up to 50 people.And if you are unable to visit our beautiful region, don’t worry, we have the solution! We offer an online sale service, where you will find our entire range of products: our red pineau, our white pineau; our VS, VSOP, XO and EXTRA cognacs; our six liqueurs; as well as our red still grape juice and our white sparkling juices, and our white, red and rosé wines. Our site will guide you in matching alcohols with certain dishes.