Spirits / Cognac / François Voyer
Cognac François Voyer - Grande Champagne
Since around the time of the French Revolution, for 5 generations, the Chauchet-Voyer family have cultivated vines in two small Grande Champagne villages with an exceptional reputation for fine cognac, Verrières and Ambleville..
At the end of the 19th century, grower Paul André was one of a very few who distilled his own wine production. As a result, the Voyer family was fortunate to be bequeathed a dream cellar which holds (among other treasures) a gold medal-winning cognac in the 50-year old category of a unique competition held in Segonzac (capital of the Grand Champagne Premier Cru).
During the 1960’s their stock holdings were skilfully developed under the guidance of Guy Chauchet, whose life’s work was the careful aging of eau de vie. He also started bottling his own cognacs and creating limited editions, which he sold with growing success. By the 1990’s the line up of cognacs for sale had multiplied tenfold and Voyer had become an established name in the world of prestige Cognac.
Today François Voyer has a range spanning 10 different cognacs and blends, and exports to more than 30 countries worldwide. The amazing success and international recognition of the Voyer brand is reinforced by the many gold medals won in international competitions, inclusion on the wine lists of some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants and exceptional peer and press reviews.
Voyer’s 28 hectares of vineyards are all firmly in the Grand Champagne cru, divided between the highly regarded villages of Verrieres and Ambleville. The clay-limestone soils of the Grand Champagne are renowned for creating cognacs with great length, aromatic and powerful flavors and impressive aging capacity.
Their innovative methods of vineyard management aim to healthy and vigorous vines but also to give them more time in the cellars where the real magic is worked. They grow 100% Ugni Blanc, and use the single “high-wire” vine cultivation method, with vines grown to 1.4m. This allows ample air around the vines, limiting rot and fungus and cutting down time spent in the vineyards.
They allow the areas between the vines to grow wild, thus making the vines work harder for water and increasing their quality. Voyer farms these vines using the lutte raisonée method, meaning they use the absolute minimum amount of chemical products to promote healthy vineyards.
Voyer is one of only a few Cognac houses who distill their own production. They very gently press their grapes in a pneumatic press to make a white wine. The fermentation of this wine is carefully controlled by selecting the right yeast for the prevailing weather conditions. They believe that a good yeast choice will allow the subtle characteristics of that particular year to show in the wine. The finished wine is dry and slightly acidic, with an alcohol content of between 9 and 10%.
Once the wine is ready they distill it twice in their two traditional Charentaise stills, the oldest of which is 30 years old, with a capacity of 2,500 litres and 2,000 litres respectively. At the end of the first distillation they have obtained a liquid called Brouillis which is 30% alcohol. The second distillation (Bon Chauffe) then occurs and the crystal clear eau de vie obtained on this pass through the still is around 70% alcohol. The so-called “heart” of this eau de vie then goes into our cellars to be aged into cognac.
Voyer uniquely distills on the lees, which means they mix the lees into the wine before placing it in the stills. This makes distillation much more difficult but gives greater richness and aromatic quality to the finished cognacs. They also heat their wine much more slowly than many of their competitors, enabling them to select the very best aromatic properties to go into their cognacs. And finally, the decision of which parts of the eau de vie will go into the aging cellars is made 100% by the noses of their distillers, never by a machine, meaning their cognacs tend to have very strong aromatic qualities.
Voyer ages all their eaux de vie in new barrels for the first 3 years in the cellar to give them a certain structure. They then transfer them to old barrels to refine the flavors of the aging cognacs. All their barrels are Limousin oak with a medium toast. During aging they seek to give the young cognacs flavors of flowers and fruit; the middle-aged cognacs flavors of dry wood, vanilla and nuts; and the old cognacs flavors of spices, candied fruits and cedar wood. Their cellars have differing atmospheric conditions, which also affects the aromatic and flavor profile of their cognacs.
The evaporation of roughly 3% (the “Angels’ share”) of their entire stock every year concentrates the cognacs further still, but equates to a loss of approximately 10,000 bottles. In effect, this makes the Angels their 3rd most important customer (after the French and Russians)! But through this evaporation and the addition of a small amount of distilled water (to the younger cognacs) they gradually bring the alcohol level down from 70% to a more palatable 40%. It also means that some of their younger cognacs are less flavor-dense than the older ones, some of which have been concentrated through natural evaporation over more than 50 years.
Voyer’s current Cellar Master Pierre Vaudon (whose own cognacs also happen to be part of our book) tastes each cognac every year and includes only the very best into his assemblages. This effort is helped by the large quantity of eaux de vie he has to choose from (as well as the priceless legacy of his predecessors). It also means that Voyer’s assemblages always contain cognacs much older than the legal minimum for each grade.
Profile of Voyer Cognacs
The unique aromas and flavors of Voyer’s cognacs may differ slightly depending on the cru and the time and method of aging, but in general they themselves describe them as:
Between 1-3 years: sharp, rough flavors and astringent woody notes.
Between 4-8 years: increasingly floral with the wood notes beginning to meld in.
Between 8-12 years: the floral notes, though still present, become a bit more muted. They are replaced by fruit flavors of plum, peach and apricot which will continue to develop over the next 15 years.
Between 15-25 years: The nutty flavors including hazelnuts and walnuts become more dominant, blending in with the first spice notes. It is this mixture of subtle flavors that will form the rancio charentais, characteristic of old cognacs. Throughout this time the floral notes remain in the background.
From 25 years: The spice notes will gradually further develop and combine with those of dried fruits.
Beyond 40 years: The spice notes start to leave space for more complex flavors of wax, incense, cedar wood, narcissus flowers and nutmeg.
Through careful blending, Voyer Cognac has produced a unique signature taste encompassing: wax, nuts, leather, exotic fruits, lime, licorice and spices.
They also produce delicious white and red Pineaux des Charentes.