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Charles Neal Selections © 2022
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Spirits / Cognac / Dudognon
Maison Dudognon - Grande Champagne
The Dudognon family has grown grapes in the small village of Lignières-Sonneville since 1776. This village is about 11 miles southeast of the town Cognac in the heart of the famed Grande Champagne zone, Cognac’s most hallowed ground. The soil here is largely composed of Campanian chalk, and spirits from this cru are especially renowned for their tremendous length.
video: Oscar Beckmann and Michael Housewright
"These Cognacs can hold their own against those of the great houses but have preserved a closeness to their origins, their goût de terroir."
— Axel and Bibiana Behrendt's Guide to Cognac
Raymond Dudognon was a true legend in the Cognac world--the complete antithesis to the suit-and-tie image of Cognac, humble in both his appearance and opinions. Instead, he let his Cognac do the talking. Dudognon (known to many adoring American clients as "The Dude") was born in 1927 into a long line of Cognac distillers dating back to his great grandfather Paulin. In 1946 he took the reins from his father and distilled his first Cognacs. He performed his alambic alchemy in a small, wood-fueled still.
At the time, most small Cognac producers practiced polyculture. Amidst sunflowers and corn, Raymond had just over 5 hectares of vines. Raymond married his wife Pierrette in 1948, and over the next decade they had three daughters. During this time, Raymond also tore up some of his workhorse crops and replanted the land with vines, arriving at just under 35 hectares.
After the Second World War, Raymond Dudognon raised the domaine's reputation to new levels with his close attention to detail and minimal intervention of his spirits. During this period Raymond, like most bouilleurs de cru (growers who have their own stills), sold the bulk of his production to the négociants. These Cognac brokers bought and blended entire casks from small producers and then marketed the product throughout the world under their own label. Because of his excellent terroir (with high chalk content which ultimately leads to tremendous length), Raymond became a favorite of several leading négociants.
Dudognon Modernizes Without Losing Tradition
In the 1970’s, Raymond transformed his still from wood-burning to gas. He was convinced that gas produced a more regular distillation. Yet when he taught his daughter Claudine the ins and outs of distillation, he insisted she learn with a wood fire. Raymond used this strategy because he knew if Claudine could overcome unforeseen problems that can arise with the wood-fueled method, she would develop the skills to perfect distillation by other means.
Dudognon Cognac Wins Gold Medal
In 1990, Raymond entered his Réserve des Ancêtres (made from his first two vintages, the 1946 and the 1947, that had been blended together decades before) in The International Spirits Tasting Show. Raymond took home the Medaille d'Or or Gold Medal, echoing a gold his great grandfather Paulin had won in the competition in 1898. Because of this, they gained a much greater appreciation in the Cognac world, and their cognacs became sought after far and wide.
Next Generation Dudognon
At the end of the 1990’s, Raymond retired and divided his property equally amongst his three daughters. He chose Claudine as his successor. To her, he passed the knowledge he had accumulated during more than half a century.
Shortly thereafter, Raymond was diagnosed with cancer. He bravely battled the disease for several years and was finally confined to a bed. In October 2002, he succumbed to his struggle.
Raymond was well loved within the Cognac community and was a member of many of the local committees and tasting panels. He loved experimenting with rarely-used grape varietals like Montils and Grosse Blanche, and experimenting with distillation methods. In short, the Cognac world lost a legend when he was gone.
Claudine and Gerald Take the Reins
Following Raymond's death Claudine Dudognon, along with her husband Gerald Buraud, (logically) took over. Today they have a tiny 10 hectares of vines divided between Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Montilshe, and the Dudognon-Burauds are staunch traditionalists who distill only the grapes grown on their properties. Their two alambics distill roughly 450-200 hl a.p. (100 barrels) per year. The eau de vie from their fine parcels is aged in their small, rustic chai.
These Cognacs originate from soils that are not treated with chemicals or nitrates. The wood for their barrels is air-dried for 5 years next to the chai. While many Cognacs are laden with permitted additives (sugar syrup, boisé, caramel), the only additive used in Dudognon Cognacs is water. Because of this, their color is fairly light, their sweetness comes from only naturally concentrated fruit, while their length, like the finest spirits from the Grand Champagne, is counted in minutes.
The decisions during distillation are done with the glass in hand rather than with scientific instruments.
Today, Claudine and Gerald continue to elevate Dudognon's Cognacs to new heights, frequently winning prizes and gathering tremendous international press
Maison Dudognon Cognac Sélection NV
Maison Dudognon Cognac Réserve NV
Maison Dudognon Cognac “Paulin” NV
Maison Dudognon Cognac Vieille Réserve NV
Maison Dudognon “Heritage” NV