We were in Cognac as part of Viking’s massive christening celebrations designed to highlight their new Viking Longships and Viking’s newest itinerary in France: Chateaux, Rivers and Wine, departing roundtrip from Bordeaux.
With only two days in the region on our short preview cruise, it was tough to know what to do. Half the guests were headed out to taste some of Bordeaux’s acclaimed wines, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn more about cognac. It’s been one of my favorite after-dinner drinks for years now, and I’m always trying – subtly but steadily – to get people on to it.
CAMUS (pronounced cam-ooo) is a family-owned company that has been making cognacs since 1863. To properly welcome us, we were introduced to two generations of Camus men: Jean-Paul Camus, who became a Master Blender in 1977; and his son, Cyril Camus, who has served as President of the House of CAMUS since 2003.
Today, father and son continue the tradition that began with Jean-Baptiste Camus (1835-1901) who originally founded the company in 1863 as La Grande Marque.
Guests on Viking’s Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary can participate in an optional excursion to the House of CAMUS on Day 3 of their itinerary, when Viking Forseti docks in Blaye, France. You’ll learn about the history of the company and be able to sample different vintages. You can even try your hand at blending your own cognac, which is exactly what I did.
Now, I should preface this with the disclaimer: I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I like Cognac, but I can’t even think of trying to be on the same level as Jean-Paul and Cyril, both of whom have made a living out of the artof blending. What I was doing wasn’t blending; it was pouring a bit of this and a bit of that in a flask and hoping it took.
But our expert master blender took the time to explain each type, or cru,that all cognac is based off of. There are six crus, all of which revolve around geographical characteristics. For our blends, we’d be using Fin Bois, Boise a Terroirs, Petit Champagne,and Grand Champagne.
The lightest blends – referred to as the most feminine– feature a lighter taste with stronger notes of framboise, or raspberry. At the other end of the scale, Petit Champagneand Grand Champagne are considered to be the most masculine; smoky, dense, and something that pairs nicely with a cup of black coffee or a cigar.
So, I mixed up the proportions I desired into a 50cl bottle, which was then blended, poured into a new bottle, sealed, labelled, and placed into a gorgeous wooden box for me to take home. We were told to wait a total of three months from the date we’d bottled it before sampling it.
Now, I’m a bit early. My cognac was bottled on March 20, and it’s now June 16. But, on June 20th, I’m sailing the Inside Passage, and I didn’t want to risk trying to bring my own spirits onboard a cruise ship, lest they be confiscated. The fact that my cognac even made it home is something of a miracle, after I had to abandon my luggage in Madrid on the return journey home.
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