Chronological overview of events of importance to the cognac regio or its product.

D=Delos; CR=Cyril Ray; W=Wina Born; NF=Nicolas Faith; CP=Constantin Parvulesco; SC=Salvatore Calabrese; BNIC=Bureau Nationale Interprofessionel de Cognac.

Circa 50 BCJulius Caesar conquers Gaul. Wine is being planted in Gallia Narbonensis (roughly the Provence)
92 ADEmperor Titus Flavius Domitianus forbids cultivation of wine in Gaul (Western-Europe, territory of Celts, Belgians and Germans)
(according to Marvaud: 85 AD)
280Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus grants the rights to own vineyards and to make wine to the Gauls. Santonian vineyards expand (BNIC)
(according to Marvaud: 276)
430salt is being exported from Charente to the Northern countries (SC).
Ca 945Monseigneur Hélie de Villebois, first seigneur de Cognac.
around 950Chateau de Cognac is being built (a castrum). This has been completely destroyed. Around 1200 the castle is rebuilt in stone.
12th centuryA large vineyard is being created by Guillaume X, Duc of Guyenne and Count of Poitiers; this is called "vignoble de Poitou". (BNIC)
In Cognac salt is being stored. Taxes in a city like Cognac were much lower than in a port town. For this reason Cognac became attractive for salt merchants like the Dutch. (Delos)
1199Death of Richard Lionheart (Richard Cœur-de-Lion) and mariage of Isabelle Taillefer with John Lackland (Jean sans Terre). The seigneurie de Cognac passes over to English hands.
Ca. 1200As early as around 1200 commercial relations between England and La Rochelle were in existance. (Delamain)
1204 à 1210The right bank of the Charente river (northern side) is being recaptured by the French King.
1204John Lackland gave to the citizens of La Rochelle the right to visit all ports of England with the exception of London. (Delamain)
1205John Lackland gave letters of safe-conduct to the citizens of La Rochelle to enable them to sell their wines freely in Flanders (Delamain)
1215John Lackland accorded Cognac a charter (privilege) to deal in salt which gave it autonomy. (Delos).
1216John Lackland dies and Isabelle Taillefer marries Hugues X de Lusignan.
13th eeuwDutch ships, searching for salt in the area, also carry wines from the region to sell in the Northern countries. The succes of the Poitou wines leads to the spreading of viniculture to Saintonge and Angoumois.
The city of Cognac becomes renowned for its wine trade, adding to a reputation for storing salt since 11th century. (BNIC)
1270Salt and wine from the Saintonien region are being sold in Hamburg (Hanze)
The Frapin family established in the Charente region.
1308Last descendant of Lusignan family dies; Philips IV the Fair (Philippe Le Bel) brings the County of Angoulême and the seigneurie de Cognac under the gouvernance of the French crown.
1337At the beginning of the Hundred Years' War wine is being exported from Charente to Great Brittany.
1411First ‘brandy’ is being distilled in the Armagnac regio, consumers being mainly farmers. (WB en SC)
1494François I, latter King of France, is born in Cognac. Many years later François allows Cognac to sell salt and to use the regional rivers like the Charente river for transportation of the salt.
1494first mentioning of a distillery in Scotland. Scotsch Whisky is officially born (SC).
1500Hieronymus Brunschweig from the Elzas publishes the “Liber de arte destillandi” in Strasbourg: about the art of distillation. Despite the fact that it is written from a medical point of view, it is about the technique of distillation.
Early 16th centuryeau-de-vie is no longer just a medicine.
1506in Colmar a guild of distillateurs is already existing (WB, p15) (Delamain: in Colmar control is being exercised on the distillation of wine).
1514establishment of a trade association of sauce makers, lemonade producers, vinegar producers and distillateurs. In 1537 the distillateurs go their seperate way.
1517a "barrique d'eau ardent" has been shipped from Bordeaux (Faith)
1548Peasants and aristocrats revolt against salt taxes in France.
1549Notaire Lecourt (Ravaz, 243): ‘quattre barriques playnes d’eau-de-vie bonne et marchande’ were sold, 'au prix de 60 livres tournois les quattre'. (NF, GD,); noticed in writing by the historian André Castelot. (WB p. 25).
Also mentioned by Delamain: ‘un achat par un marchand de La Rochelle: quattre barriques d’eau-de-vie bonne et marchande’. (D en Delamain) According to CR, quoting professor Dion, it was in 1529.
16th centuryThe Dutch sail to the Borderies and Champagnes regions looking for wines. The wine quality in Aunis is getting worse. Wine is unable to survive the long journeys over see. The Dutch begin distilling in the region. At first water was being added again in the destination area to try to recreate the original wine (BNIC; Professor Roger Dion in Histoire de la Vigne et du vin en France des Origines au XIXth siècle; WB p26)
1559, 30 sep.The first known shipment of eau-de-vie from La Rochelle to England: ‘Guillaume Hélard « marinier » s'engage à porter en Angleterre « au lieu de la cohue de Londres » douze barriques d'eau-de-vie’. (Archives départementales de la Charente-Maritime, E, Notaires, minutes Barrault. Histoire du vin en France 1953)
end 16th centuryToo much wine is being produced in Aunis since the demand is much less. At the same time it is already known that the wines will suffer when being transported over large distances. The Dutch are already distilling wines, therefor the surplus wine in Aunis is also being distilled. The word brandy is derived from the Dutch word 'brandewijn'.
1569The Prince of Orange grants permits to privateers (les Geux de la mer) to attack Spanish ships and harbors. (BNIC)
1571Notaire Tharazon (Ravaz, 243): sale by the widow of "sieur Jehan Serazin, marchand et faizeur d'eau-de-vie"; mention of a sale (or a purchase?). (NF, GD, WB p 25)
Second appearance of an eau-de-vie in Cognac: A Serazin purchase is noted. Also mentioned by Delamain: it is mentioned in a deed of 1571.
Ca 1598Legend of the knight de la Croix-Marron (knight of the Brown Cross) who allegedly invented double distillation on account of a dream. Chevalier Jacques de la Croix-Marron is a real figure, he was a Huguenot who fought together with Agrippa d'Aubigné during the religious wars; he also wrote the book La Muse catholique, a two-piece book: Libre Arbitre and l'Eucharistie.
But the legend is false. BNIC however adheres to it. La Croix-Marron lived in Domaine de la Brée in Segonzac (it is called Logis de la Brée now).
N.B. : some write Maron (with just one ‘r’); some state the date more precisely, viz. 1580.
Early 17th centuryStart of distillation in Aunis, Saintonge en Angoumois (Delamain; but see also 1571, 1559 and 1549; so what probably is meant: they are starting to distil more and more…
1617first mentioning of cognac in a sales contract; again form a merchant in La Rochelle: "brandy that was guaranteed to be from Cognac".
1622Claude Masse, engineer and cartographer of the 17th-18th century writes in 1712 that according to the oldest inhabitants of the Charente region distillation only began about ninety years ago. It follows that distillation in Aunis started around 1622. (Delamain). This is not correct however, see 1549 (CR).
Early 17th centuryDouble distillation is being introduced. First stills are being build by the Dutch. This method will later be refined by the French and is called 'distillation Charentaise'.
1624The first known distillery is built in Tonnay (Charente) by two Dutchmen: Van Der Boogwert and Loo Deyijck.
1625, 7 juliFirst known export of 'eau-de-vie de Cognac' via Tonnay-Charente. ('Sommations par Jean de Voghel à Paul Gassan, marchand de la Rochelle, de livrer à Tonnay-Charente les vins et eaux-de-vie de Cognac qu'il lui a vendus'. Archives départementales de la Charente- Maritime, E, Notaires, minutes Bounin. Histoire du vin en France 1953)
1636Revolte of vignerons of Cognac, Jarnac and Chateauneuf; they protested against the lower taxes of their competetors in Aunis. These also had a monopoly on the foreign trade and their ecomomic prospects were much more favourable because of the proximity to the sea.
1638Lewes Roberts mentions a wine called "Rotchell or Cogniacke".
1643Philippe Augier establishes Cognac Augier; a name that changed 15 year later to 'Augier Frères'.
Mid 17th century(ca 1650): opinion of high society in London: Cognac is one of the most excellent wineproducts (like Port and Bordeaux) (first use of the word cognac to indicate the eau-de-vie?)
1669Colbert writes: 3-4.000 Dutch ships visit our ports yearly.
The Dutch dominated the seas for more than a century (CR).
1678first use of cognac as the name for the eau-de-vie; in the London Gazette is an ad for a few casks of cognac (Coniack Brandy)
1696Coat of arms awarded to Frapin by Louis XIV.
Early 18th centurycustom sets in to use the name cognac for brandy. The good quality of cognac becomes well-known.
1706London Gazette: ‘thirty-four pieces of old coniack brandy were for sale at Southampton’
1709A very severe winter ruïns the vineyards in Saintonge (small ice-age). The grape variety Gaumez (in use everywhere in Saintonge) is being replaced by the Balzac grape.
1710The historian Claude Masse contends that the method of double distillation is invented by a person from La Rochelle.
1713Grande Champagne is being mentioned: 'vicars living in the Grande Champagne unit in protest against paying taxes'. This implies the existence of a Petite Champagne and als of Bois. However, Bois is not mentioned in any document before the year 1800.
1715Jean Martell establishes Martell Cognac. His family comes from the island Jersey.
1720-1730speculation with cognac is already taken place: cognac is being stored until the prices have come more favourable.
1724Paul-Emilie Rémy Martin establishes Cognac Rémy Martin together with his father and with Jean Geay.
1725Isaac Ranson starts his business in the town of Cognac. The merchandise is being shipped to Ireland and Holland.
1726Jean Gervais (Officer of the Angoulême Presidial, a provincial Court of Justice) writes in memoires on the Angoumois: "eau-de-vie from Cognac is indisputably the best in the World (la meilleur du monde)".
1730-1780The custom is coming into existance to store eau-de-vie in wooden barrels, notably because of abundance crops. Limousin wood is already being considered the best.
Due to delays in trade the discovery is being made that the quality of the eau-de-vie improves as they remain longer in oak barrels. Also that it is very drinkable without dilution.
1731, 5 juniLouis XV forbids planting new vines without permission.
1738Oldest cognac in the world (N.B. the bottle is probably less old, but the cognac is from the year 1788). A 'Clos du Griffier' from 1788, said to be the oldest bottle of cognac in the world, Monday fetched 25,000 euros (37,000 dollars) at auction - eight times its estimated value.
1763James Delamain partners with Ranson: Ranson & Delamain in Jarnac.
1765James Hennessy, ex-officer in the army under Louis XV, establishes Hennessy Cognac.
1770Oldest cognac in the world; distilled in 1770; bought by Lanesborough Hotel, London ‘The cognac is believed to be from the Domaine de la Bonneville’
1790A Hardy 1790 is bought by the Lanesborough Hotel, London.
177910 cognac houses exist in the centre of Cognac.
1811Year of the comet C1811 F1, discovered by Honoré Flaugergues. The year was exceptional good for French wine and also the cognacs of this year were extraordinary.
1817The indications V.O.P. (Very old pale) and V.S.O.P. (very superior old pale) are being used.
1817Thomas Hine & Co is being established (successors of Delamain)
1819Cognac Bisquit is being established by Alexandre Bisquit
1824, 18 juliFirst laws to protect use of names of origine of products.
1824Anne-Philippe Delamain and his cousin Paul Roullet establish Cognac Roullet & Delamain in Jarnac. According to Delamain it was Henri, but he was only 5 years old in 1824.
1835Felix Courvoisier and Louis Gallois establish Cognac Courvoisier in Jarnac.
1847Denis Mounié and Jules Robin start selling cognac in bottles (CP)
Circa 1849Martell also starts selling cognac in bottles, but with a label. (CP)
Mid 19th centuryBNIC: start of selling cognac in bottles in stead of in barrels. This contributes much in spreading the name and fame of cognac in the world.
NF: oldest bottle dates from 1848; property of Martell.
N.B.: oldest bottles in existence date from 1850, but bottling may have started earlier.
1856start of brand name registration; since then 16.000 different brands and businesses have been registrated.
19th centuryCognac is not longer sold in barrels, but in bottles. An entirely new industry comes into existence: bottles, corks etc.
1854The maps of the region show four different districts: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Premier Bois and Deuxième Bois
1855Hennessy coöperates with Poilly Brigode in Folembray, a company that produces bottles.
1856Hennessy starts producing labels.
1857, 23 juniLaw for the protection of brands.
1858Cognac A.E. Dor is being established in Jarnac.
1860Professor Coquand (1811-1881) defines and validates a classification of Cru's with the aid of a Maître de Chai, based upon soil samples and tasting of the brandy's of that soil.
1861outline of a cru-map by Lacroix, civil engineer from Saintes.
1864The Law from 1857 is being thightened up to prevent fraudulous abuse of brand names and names of merchants abroad.
1864Hennessy registrates name and logo: an arm with an ax.
1864Hine registrates its logo, a deer lying down (CP)
1865Auguste Hennessy introduces stars as an indication of the age of his cognacs (1* = 2 year; 2 *= 4 year en 3* = 6 year; p.m.: nowadays three stars represent two year)
1866First vineyard in Charente afflicted by Phylloxera.
1870The districts Fins Bois and Bons Bois appear on the maps of the Charente vineyards.
1860-1875Very abundant harvests, preceding the Phylloxera crisis
1870First usage of XO, by Hennessy.
1872The old acquit dates from 1872, printed on red paper; when being moved all eau-de-vie had to be accompanied by this acquit; control on which basic materials were used did not take place.
1872Wine louse (Phylloxera) advaces in the Charente region. As a consequence the whisky market increases.
280.000 hectare of vineyards is being reduced to 40.000 hectare during the following years.
1873Catastrophical year in Charente because of Phylloxera
1874appearance of the ‘dictionnaire de cru’
1875English merchants (shippers) distinguish fifteen different cru’s
1877Ingenieur Viala sailes to America for the search of American vines, suitable for the calcarious soils in Charente, which can serve as root stocks.
1878Claude Boucher introduces a technique for the production of bottles.
1888Comité de Viticulture de l'arrondissement de Cognac is being established for a period of five years. The goal being: reconstruction of the vineyards in Charente. Eventually this comité became the Station Viticole de Cognac.
1890Adoption of the Madrid agreement; article IV provided legal protection for regional product brands made of grapes. (Madrid Arrangement Concerning the International Registration of Marks)
1890Hennessy market leader.
1891Conference of Madrid: recognition that 'Appellation d'Origine' is not in the 'public domain'.
1898-1900cognac markets were in chaos; a lot of brandy's were sold under the name of 'cognac' and the reputation of cognac was damaged badly. Cognac was imitated everywere (the phylloxera crisis made this possible, but also lack of legislation (Delamain).
1892At the recommendation of the Comité de Viticulture de l'arrondissement de Cognac (see 1888), the Station Viticole de Cognac is being established by decret of the Ministry of Agricultural Affairs for the duration of ten years. Ravaz was being appointed as president.
20th centuryRootstocks from North-America were imported. Ugni Blanc is used to replace the Folle blanche and Colombard varieties.
1903, 31 marchintroduction of the Acquit Blanc for eau-de-vie of which the origin was authenticated and thus could be checked and verified (Delamain)
1905, 1 augA bill is passed against fraude.
1907, 29 juniExpansion of the law: no substance that may change the flavour is to be added to eau-de-vie; however, substances that can colour or sweeten are allowed (Delamain)
1908, 25 augCircular 743; establishes the legal limits of sugar and caramel content (Delamain).
1908, 5 aug.Law is passed which establishes the borders of the region d'appellation (Delamain).
1909, 1 mayThe cognac region is determined by Law by a summary of departments, arrondissements and cantons; this is an expansion of the Law of 5 aug. 1908. This decret is being accompanied by a map of M. Guillon (for the most part a copy of the 1887 map of Mouchet (Delamain).
1909The bureau (La Régie) demands that products with an appellation de cognac (Compte regional Cognac) are being stored in 'chais', separated by a road from other 'chais'.
1919, 6 meiLaw that tightens provisions regarding purity of the product. (NF)
1923Hennessy and Martell make an agreement; they exchange information and divide export markets between them. This agreement lasts 29 years.
1927First appearance of the terms Fine Champagne by Rémy Martin on its VSOP bottles.
1927, 22 juliAmendment of the Law of may 6, 1919 for the protection of 'appellation d'origin'.
1927, 27 juliA Law is passed: only commonly used grape varieties are permitted; hybrids (having a higher yield) are forbidden.
1928, 20 febRegulation of the term ‘fine’ (is only to be used if accompanied by a geographical appellation of wine or cider exclusively coming from the mentioned region).
1929, 4 augintroduction of the Acquit Jaune d´Or; this certificate states the warranty by the State en clearly specifies its origen.
1930The making of cognac cocktails is becoming popular.
1930Introduction of a system to keep track of the ages of cognac.
1934Courvoisier starts using the historical figure Napoleon to promote its product.
1935Stipulation by the 'Service des Contribution' that cognacs are to be stored according to their age.
1935Stipulation that cognac has to be double-distilled (NF).
1936, 15 mayDecret. Seven different cru's are being defined by name: « Grande Champagne », « Petite Champagne », « Borderies », « Fins Bois », « Bons Bois », « Bois Ordinaires », « Bois à terroirs », and also « fine champagne ».
A set of rules is issued; amongst other: the wine has to be made from white grapes; addition of sugar to the wine is strictly forbidden (NB, addition of sugar to cognac later on is permitted); the use of continuous pressing (Archimedes press) is forbidden; double distillation is compulsory; use of a naked flame (feu nu) is compulsory; maximum allowed size of the still (chaudière) is 30 hectoliter; degree of alcohol must have a minimum of 40%.
Grape varieties that are permitted are: Folle blanche, St-Emilion (Ugni blanc) and Colombard. Sémillion, Sauvignon, Blanc rame (=Meslier Saint-François B), Jurançon blanc and Montils allowed up to ten percent of the total.
1938, 13 janDecret: specification of the municipalities of five of the cru´s (grande champagne, fine champagne, borderies, fins bois, bons bois); specification of permitted grape varieties: colombard B, folle blanche B, ugni blanc B ; folignan B, jurançon blanc B, meslier saint-françois B, montils B, sélect B, sémillon B only for a maximum of 10% of the total. For the rest the same provisions as in the 1936 Law.
1938Rugulation by Law of the terms ‘fine champagne’, grande fine champagne’ and petite fine champagne’.
1939Simplification of the stipulation of 1935: cognacs older than five years need no longer be stored seperately.
1941, 5 janEstablishment of the 'Bureau de Repartition des Vins et Eau-deVie'.
1946Establishment of the 'Bureau National Interprofessionel de Cognac (BNIC)'
1946, 20 febControl on the age is being tightened
1946, 20 febthe control on the age of cognac is now the responsibility of the B.N.I.C. There are seven different comptes (00 to 5).
1962Stipulation that cognac may not be sold as a single vintage
1964Canadian Hiriam-Walker group buys Courvoisier
1967Pernod Ricard buys Bisquit Cognac
1971Hennessy and Moet-Chandon merge.
1971Distillers Limited Company buys Hine.
1979Comptes system is expanded with compte 6 (NF)
1983, 23 augCompte system legally ratified.
1987Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) being established. Hine is bought.
1987Lift of the ban on vintage cognacs
1988Seagram buys Cognac Martell
1990Compte 7 and 8 are introduced by the B.N.I.C.; but to take effect in 1999 (NF).
199387.313 hectare wine in the Cognac region.
1994Compte 7 introduced
1995Compte 8 introduced
2000Compte 9 introduced
2001Seagram (Martell) bought by Pernod Ricard and Diageo
2003, 27 julyDecret: formalisation of the introduction comptes 7 t/m 10.
2018XXO allowed for 14 year old cognacs


Chronological overview — 2 Comments

  1. You mention for the year 1875 that ‘English merchants (shippers) distinguish fifteen different crus’. Do you have any sources or maps that can be linked to that info ? I would be very curious to look at a map of the 15th crus !

    • That information is from the book ‘Histoire du Cognac’ by Robert Delamain. There was no map to illustrate it.

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