Tesseron Cognac was founded in 1905 by Abel Tesseron, at that time already a collector of the finest cognacs. The business is owned and managed today by the fourth generation of the family. While on holiday in the Aveyron, we had the fortune to meet the charming Frėdėric and his family and he most kindly extended an invitation for us to take a tour of this exclusive cognac house.......
Any technical or other errors in the information below are entirely mine, made as I strove to comprehend the processes, facts and figures involved in the production of cognac at maison Tesseron!
The understated but imposing gateway to the premises in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
The brass nameplate, polished daily! The company owns 37 hectares of vineyards in the Grande Champagne (considered the best area) near Cognac to provide the supply of grapes for their cognac production.Three grape varieties are grown for the properties they show in the finished cognac. Ugni blanc for roundness, Folle Blanche for finesse and Colombard for power and depth! It's a very complicated subject and a skilled enterprise!
The distillery with its double row (this is one row) of copper stills and interconnecting pipework.
Behind the brick facings are the natural gas burners which heat the fermented wine. Everywhere is spotlessly clean!
A pictorial diagram of the distillation process.
The outside of the walls of the storage cellars are covered with a tiny black fungus, which thrives in the slightly alcoholic fume-laden air. The black colour seems to bring the rough stonework into sharper relief.
The middle third (called eau de vie) of the distillate is put into small new oak barrels (as in the foreground), then later transferred into large oak vats (below) to mix the product and balance out any differences in character of the eau de vie which there might be in the individual barrels. The first and last thirds are re-distilled and used in the blending process.
The cellar master knows the character of the contents of each barrel like his own children! Mixing and blending the eau de vie is a very special competence and Tesseron cognac possesses a rare complexity due to the subtle proportioning of the three grape varieties it uses.
Long term storage (10 -15 years) for the developing eau de vie. Some is lost to evaporation, this loss being called "la part des anges" - the angels' share!
The cognac is eventually transferred from oak barrels to glass demi-johns when it ceases to mature any further.The cognac can take up to 90 years to reach this point!
Long, long maturation in quiet cellars!
In a cellar called Paradis, shelves of ancient demi-johns of cognac, some dating from the 19th century, are stored. This cellar was originally a church built by monks in the 11th century.
A portrait of the founder, Abel Tesseron, hanging in the entrance hallway.
From the left, Lot 90 XO Ovation (just seen), aged in oak barrels for about 12 years, rich and complex, Lot 76 XO Tradition, aged in oak barrels for "more than a generation" Lot 53 XO Perfection,aged in oak barrels for "more than two generations". This cognac was given full marks (100/100) by Robert Parker, the well-reputed American wine writer and on the far right, Lot 29 XO Exception. aged in oak barrels for "more than three generations" -that's 75 years, folks!! It must be brilliant! Behind, on the shelves, are reference samples of previous cognac vintages.
More varieties! From the left, XO Passion, more than 12 years old and a blend of 30 eaux de vies; Extra Legende, aged for "more than a generation" and a blend of about 50 eaux de vies and finally Tresor, aged for "more than two generations" and a blend of about 100 eaux de vies. I said it was complicated!
Royal Blend is a selection of 50 Grande Champagne cognacs, chosen from Tesseron's own private historic collection.The cognac ages for many years in oak "tierçons", very special barrels used for only the rarest cognacs. This cognac is the result of work by two generations of the Tesseron family, is bottled in hand-blown glass demi-johns of 0.7 litres, which you can just see on the left above.
Extreme, the flagship of this cognac house, is incredibly rare and valuable, production of the 1.75 litre bottles being measured in the low hundreds of bottles each year! If you are interested in finding out more about the very special Tesseron range, you can visit their website http://www.tesseroncognac.com
So, Frėdėric, our visit to maison Tesseron was the most rare and valuable privilege for us and a memory we will always treasure! By assiduous production of the very best cognac and storing the most ancient of them for careful use in blends, Maison Tesseron are investing in the future, in supreme quality, and in their business for their Clients' benefit. (My words and my opinion, nothing is intended to be advertising for our hosts!)