Cognac Frapin is rarity among cognac producers – this family-owned, centuries-old dynasty releases only estate-produced and bottled cognac. Frapin indeed owns 741-acres of land in the Cognac area of Charentes in southwest France, including over 500 acres of Premier Cru de Cognac vineyards planted with superior Ugni-Blanc grapes in the Grande Champagne region. This constitutes by far the largest single vineyard in the heart of this top-rated appellation. Unlike many of its fellow producers, Frapin does not turn to outside growers for grapes and is able to apply the most exacting standards of quality control at every level of production, starting on the vines. Frapin cognacs are, as a result, the epitome of excellence.
The Frapin family can trace its ties to Charentes as far back as the year 1270. Today, this illustrious company is under the creative direction of Geneviève Frapin, her husband Max Cointreau and their son Jean-Pierre Cointreau. In 1994, Frapin added to its luxury portfolio with the purchase of the equally historic, Champagne Gosset.
The elegant, turreted Château de Fontpinot is set amid extensive vineyards in Segonzac, near the town of Cognac. Now used for entertaining and hospitality, the family’s original home gives its name to the region’s only Grande Champagne château-bottled cognac, the renowned Château de Fontpinot XO Grande Champagne. Surrounding farm buildings house precious stocks of 50- to 60-year-old family reserves, source of the company’s oldest and rarest cognacs – the much vaunted Extra Grande Champagne, 1er Cru de Cognac and the superlative Cuvée 1888.
Cognac comes from a very precisely mapped viticulture zone in Charentes, constituting nearly 183,000 acres, or 285 square miles, divided into six crus or varieties: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires. Each cru is marked by the quality of grapes grown, which depends greatly on soil composition. The chalky soils found on the Frapin estate are identical to those in Reims, a city in the heart of the prestigious Champagne winemaking region, hence the Grande Champagne moniker.
Quality at Cognac is the utmost priority, which is reflected throughout the entire production process. The Frapin estates practices “Agriculture raisonnée” the name given to farming techniques that are sensitive and respectful of the land and soil. Young vines, for example, are cultivated traditionally and only fertilized with manure and mulch, whereas old vines are uprooted after 30 years. The soil rests for a minimum of seven years before being replanted, eliminating root-eating insects and the risk of virus. Additionally, harvest takes place in early October, at least one week ahead of most producers, to maintain the higher levels of acidity desirable in premium-quality cognac, and no more than two hours are allowed to lapse between picking and pressing. To retain freshness of fruit, no filtration is permitted, and all cognacs are distilled on the lees, with double distillation conducted in special Charentes copper stills.
Olivier Paultes is Cellar Master, or master blender, at Cognac Frapin, his blending room located at the company’s head offices in the small, historic town of Segonzac, capital of the Grande Champagne appellation. He learned his trade from his father, grandfather and great grandfather, all Master-blenders, and honed his skills working first for the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac) and other another leading cognac house before moving to Frapin in 1987. Olivier became the youngest Cellar Master in France at the age of just 25 years old. Each day he smells samples but will only taste if he detects a problem. To maintain its reputation as a world-class producer of premium cognac, the House will not hesitate to reject an entire harvest, as it did in 1980 when the vintage was poor due to frozen grapes.
To bare the name of its eponymous region, a Cognac must meet the exacting legal requirements – based on grape variety and production processes – set forth by the French government. These stringent policies help to ensure the utmost quality. A selection of Frapin’s world-class cognacs is now widely available in the United States, including: Cognac VS Grande Champagne, Cognac VSOP Grande Champagne, Château de Fontpinot XO Grande Champagne, Château de Fontpinot Vintage 1986 Grande Champagne, Cognac VIP XO Grande Champagne, Cognac EXTRA Grande Champagne and Cuvee 1888.