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Harvest time

The Hand-Picked Harvest

The Hand-Picked Harvest

The most important time of year in the Cognac calendar is upon us, it’s crunch time. Harvesting season is here!

After a nerve-wracking year of intensive labor, maintaining the vines, protecting them from disease, and praying that the weather conditions stay just right to produce the perfect grape, comes the most important decision for the viticulturist; which day to begin the harvest.

The most important time of year in the Cognac calendar is upon us, it’s crunch time. Harvesting season is here!

After a nerve-wracking year of intensive labor, maintaining the vines, protecting them from disease, and praying that the weather conditions stay just right to produce the perfect grape, comes the most important decision for the viticulturist; which day to begin the harvest.

Harvest season usually starts at the end of September and generally lasts for about three weeks, however the start date can fluctuate by a couple of weeks on either side, depending on the growing conditions that year. The reason that beginning the harvest on the correct day is so important is because with each day that the grape remains on the vine, the levels of acidity and sugar ripeness increase. The amount of natural sugar found in the grape determines the final alcohol level and Cognac production requires low sugar content (for low alcohol levels) and high acidity grapes. You can imagine then, that this is quite a high-pressure situation for the winegrowers, as they taste the grapes each day leading up to harvesting season, waiting for the perfect balance of sugar and acidity. Harvest the grapes too soon, or too late, and the farmer’s whole year leading up to this has been jeopardized. Making this vital decision requires a seasoned professional who possesses both skill, intuition, and an acute palate.

Once harvesting begins it is all hands on deck, every person involved must operate at peak performance and for three weeks, dawn to sunset, there is a constant stream of grapes going from the vineyards to the winepress. Historically all vineyards were harvested by hand, however as the Cognac market has grown, and technology has improved, the vast majority of producers have transitioned to using mechanized harvesting. Mechanized harvesting is without a doubt a faster, more efficient, and cost-effective approach, however it can also result in more damage being done to the vines and the grapes due to the physical trauma of dragging the grapes off their stems. There are still a small number of Cognac producers who have endeavored to keep the method of harvesting by hand alive due to both a sense of tradition and to protect the grapes; although there are questions as to how much longer this will be feasible for.

Harvesting grapes by hand is a much gentler approach and the majority agree that it produces a smoother and superior Cognac. However, hand harvesting is a time-consuming process and one that requires the help of many pickers, something that producers are increasingly struggling to find. When Cognac Expert spoke to the remaining hand-harvesting producers, each of them expressed that they were considering switching over to mechanical harvesting, a tragic shame but a possible necessity. In honor of harvesting season, we wanted to shine the spotlight on the producers that have managed to keep harvesting by hand alive so far, so that you can experience a hand-picked Cognac before this tradition is lost forever.

André Petit

The family-run Cognac house of André Petit can be found in Berneuil and its roots in Cognac production go all the way back to 1850. Traditional methods of Cognac making have been passed down through the Petit generations, including the harvesting of the grapes by hand, and it is this slow and meticulous process that has resulted in some exquisite Cognacs. The Cognac house is today run by fourth-generation family member, Jacques Petit. Jacques informed us that he intends to begin his harvest on the 5th of October, so if you find yourself in Berneuil over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for Jacques who will be out from dawn to sunset picking the result of his year’s work.

Visit the brand page of André Petit.

Reviews:

94/100 pts by Dimitre Ivanov 22 Aug 2021

Napoleon in battle: bold, assertive, dominant presence.

Lip-smacking with bold flavors. There is nothing subtle about this cognac. Bottled at esteemed 44.3% vol. this cognac will capture your attention and not let go. This is a serious cognac for the connoisseurs, that made me appreciate even more the cognac from the often-overlooked Bon Bois Cru. Highly recommended. Nose: bursting with aromas. This is not a shy cognac.

80/100 pts by Jesse Cyr 14 Sep 2021

Unique and Intriguing

This is a really fun and cool expression. Not many produce 100% Bons Bois let alone specific vintages. The nose is just wonderful. Very lively! There are a lot of bright fruits like pear and cherries, but also rich aromas of chocolate, honey, and barrel spices. There's also something rather creamy on the nose like melted French vanilla ice cream.

Navarre

Cognac Navarre is considered one of the last remaining ‘purist’ producers. The Cognac House was established in 1811, but the Navarre family had been producing Cognacs as far back as the 18th century. Maison Navarre is located in the Grande Champagne region and is today run by fourth-generation distiller, Jacky Navarre, who still uses the traditional methods of production that were employed by his ancestors.

The Cognac Navarre line is limited to just four outstanding products, which makes sense when you understand the extensive time and skill that goes into each one. Jacky Navarre hand-harvests his grapes, and distills on the lees in his 30 hectoliter Charentais pot still, adding no sugar, boisé, caramel coloring, or water. Jacky allows his Cognacs to reach 45% proof solely through natural evaporation, a time-consuming process but one that produces Cognacs of unrivaled quality, aroma, and depth. Over the coming weeks of October, you will be able to find Jacky in his vineyard picking the grapes for his future eaux-de-vie.

Visit the brand page of Navarre.

Reviews:

94/100 pts by Wenge wu 08 Oct 2020

Very different taste

When friends talk about Cognac, they often mention Jacky Navarre, one of the mixologists in Cognac, and a friend of mine told me that his Cognac products were special and not what we normally drink. I went to the cognac specialist's shop and bought a bottle of Jacky Navarre's medium-grade cognac.it is Navarre Souvenir Impérial Hors d'Age Grande Champagne Cognac. I met up with some friends last night and opened the bottle of cognac. Wow, the cap was opened and it overflowed with a very special, unprecedented aroma of peeled mangoes and ripe papayas that we have here in southern China.

94/100 pts by Ronald Eminian 09 Mar 2021

Navarre Souvenir

Outstanding bouquet! Very forthcoming. Great follow through on the palate and a long and lingering finish . A great producer of a classic style cognac.

Reviews:

94/100 pts by Wenge wu 08 Oct 2020

Very different taste

When friends talk about Cognac, they often mention Jacky Navarre, one of the mixologists in Cognac, and a friend of mine told me that his Cognac products were special and not what we normally drink. I went to the cognac specialist's shop and bought a bottle of Jacky Navarre's medium-grade cognac.it is Navarre Souvenir Impérial Hors d'Age Grande Champagne Cognac. I met up with some friends last night and opened the bottle of cognac. Wow, the cap was opened and it overflowed with a very special, unprecedented aroma of peeled mangoes and ripe papayas that we have here in southern China.

94/100 pts by Ronald Eminian 09 Mar 2021

Navarre Souvenir

Outstanding bouquet! Very forthcoming. Great follow through on the palate and a long and lingering finish . A great producer of a classic style cognac.

Paul Giraud

The 42 hectare Paul Giraud estate can be found in the town of Bouteville within the Grande Champagne region, a terroir renowned for superior eaux-de-vie. The Giraud vineyard is cultivated using natural and traditional methods passed down through family members; Paul Giraud’s father was in fact one of the first producers to introduce tall and wide vines to the region at the end of the 1950s. The use of organic fertilizers and sustainable management is fundamental to the ethos of Paul Giraud and this includes the tradition of manual harvesting around 65% of its vineyards. Armed with a traditional tractor, bucket, and scissors the Giraud team will be spending the next few weeks outside in their vineyard collecting their grapes.

Paul Giraud has accumulated an extensive stock of exceptional old eaux-de-vie over several generations. The house is known for its sole production of pure vintage Cognacs, meaning they never blend their eaux-de-vie and instead allow the characteristics of annual vintages to speak for themselves. Harvest time in the Cognac region is rather magical, despite the hard work and long hours it is a joyous period when producers celebrate the fruits of their labor and become excited for the fragrant eaux-de-vie that will come to be.

Visit the brand page of Paul Giraud.

Reviews:

94/100 pts by Robert Nowak 22 Nov 2020

Fantastically Smooth!

A most pleasurble smoothness! The taste is magnificent as it evolves in your sniffer glass. Enjoy this beautiful drink with your loved ones or by yourself! PS. Do not share with entourage... it will be gone in a blink of an eye.

80/100 pts by Yonghan Kim 08 Jan 2021

Heritage of Cognac

This cognac is different from the other Proprietre Cognac. The best product to enjoy while airing.

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