The Story of Cognac Leyrat
Francis Abécassis is one of the largest vineyard owners, within the Cognac appellation, with 240 hectares of vines. Each estate, Leyrat in the Fins Bois Cru and Reviseur in the Petite Champagne Cru, lies on a site which is particularly well exposed to the sun and perfectly orientated, each with their own individual terroir. Both, however, have the chalky soil which is a key to producing elegant and subtle cognacs with great ageing potential.
Both estates are cultivated only with the Ugni Blanc grape variety at 4000 vines per hectare, with an average vine age of thirty years. The topography of the vineyards allows for the grapes to be gathered plot by plot when they reach ideal ripeness and crushing takes place at each site to ensure the optimum condition of the grapes. Each estate also has its own distillery, run by its own master distiller who will adapt his methods to the specifics of each harvest, enabling him to maximise the characteristics of each vintage.
At Leyrat the pot stills have a maximum size of 2500 litres, Reviseur 1600 litres and both are manually operated with the distiller deciding the cut. However, the shape of the stills and the manner of returning the ‘secondes’ differs. The stills have an onion shaped ’chapiteau’ (the rounded balloon shaped body sitting atop the boiler) through which the alcoholic vapours rise before passing through the swan’s neck into the condenser. This round onion shape causes the vapours to circulate and some to return to the boiler, this reflux or condensation-and-return of the vapour produces a more refined selection of the aromas that pass through and allows for the production of a very delicate and subtle spirit.
The Chapiteau at Reviseur are olive shaped, permitting the vapours a more direct route to the condenser than with the onion shaped stills at Leyrat. The result is at Reviseur more powerful aromas pass through and provide a bigger and more generous flavour in the final spirit.
Accordingly at Leyrat, with its more refined delicate spirit, the cognac is aged in new casks for only 6-12 months whilst at Reviseur they receive more than a year before being moved. Both estates carry out a triple ageing process, first in new oak, followed by casks of between 4-12 years of age and then in older or ‘exhausted’ casks to finish their ageing.
Francis Abécassis has not only renovated his estates and their vineyards, but has added modern stainless steel fermenting tanks and new ageing cellars with a substantial investment in new oak from one unique tonnellerie (barrel maker). Across the domaines there are 27 cellars containing some 3000 standard barrels and 119 larger blending and ageing casks, all are constructed from Limousin Oak with a medium toast.