The department of Charente is home to two of France's most delightful regions: Bordeaux and Cognac. Known for having some of the best French food and drink as well as a delightful array of sights and sounds, these two wine regions have something for everyone.
You can experience the world of wine at the Cité du Vin
Sleek and futuristic, the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux looks more like a tech or science center than a museum about ancient arts. But indeed, this modern structure is a tribute to one of France's oldest traditions: winemaking. Located between the river and the city, this creative museum takes visitors on a world tour of the history of winemaking, from ancient times to the present. The tour culminates at the top of the curving building with a 360° panorama of Bordeaux, and of course, a wine tasting of delights from across the globe.
You can taste some of the best beverages in France
The regions around Bordeaux and Cognac are renowned the world over for their wine and brandy, and it makes perfect sense to head to the source in search of the best ones! It's easy to find the typical deep, Bordeaux reds and velvety Cognacs, but you'll also run into some surprises that you might not find at your local wine shop. Pineau des Charentes is a local drink found only in the Charente departement, which includes both Bordeaux and Cognac. It's a fortified wine made by mixing grape juice with Cognac liquor, and then maturing it. It's not something you get to try every day!
It's the only place you can find real Cognac
Brandy can be found everywhere, but there's only one Cognac. Like many products in France, Cognac is protected by an AOP label, or appellation d'origine protegee. This means that anything called Cognac must be cultivated, harvested and bottled in this region in France. While it might seem over-the-top at first, it's with good reason. The soil here is very specific, and also very diverse. There are six different types of soil found in the Cognac region, each lending different flavours and aromas to the end result. Even slight changes in the composition of the earth can alter the flavour of the wine. Think about that while you're heading to a tasting!
Bordeaux has six wine routes to choose from
Bordeaux is home to six wine regions in total: Bordeaux; Médoc; Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac and Libournais; Blaye and Bourg; Graves and Sauternes; and Entre-deux-Mers. While the list may seem overwhelming it's more than manageable thanks to their easy connections to the city of Bordeaux. And also, you can't go wrong with your choice! There are plenty of organized wine tours to choose from, but you can just as easily plan your own trip. All you need is a car or bicycle, a map of the routes, and maybe a few tasting reservations here and there!
Cognac is the height of luxury
This ancient city is the gateway to the region's distilleries. Situated on the Charente River, it's not the largest city in the region of Cognac but it may be the most charming. The Château de Cognac is a medieval castle that presides over the city. It was destroyed in the 12th century but rebuilt in the 15th, and it offers tastings from its generous cellar.
The city of Cognac is also unsurprisingly home to the most famous names in Cognac. Remy Martin, Martell and Hennessy all have their houses here, and their roots in the city date back all the way to the 1700s. The Martell Foundation also houses a number of fascinating modern art installations. As if tasting some of the biggest names in Cognac and touring a massive castle wasn't enough, you can even stay in a 5-star hotel that was once a wine cellar!