France’s Charente region, named for the river that flows through it, is a scenic land of manicured vineyards and rolling green hills. But it’s best known as the home of cognac — the amber-hued brandy that’s nearly synonymous with luxury.
Most of the Charente’s great cognac houses also own posh chateaus to match the spirit’s reputation. They’re used most often to host galas and soirees. Some of their most important VIP’s are even invited to spend the night. Read about these six chateaus in the Charente while waiting for your invitation to arrive.
1. Chateau de Bagnolet, Hennessy
It’s rumored that rapper Nas was recently welcomed to the property, although company representatives, who closely guard the privacy of their guests, can’t confirm it. Other notable invitees have included Charles de Gaulle, Oliver Stone, and Ray Charles.
The Chateau de Bagnolet was built in 1810 and lies just outside the city of Cognac. The architecture is evocative of colonial homes in Louisiana and has an English-style lawn that slopes gently downward to the Charente river. Auguste Hennessy purchased it in 1840 at the urging of his wife. Their descendants continued living there until 1963, when it became property of the company.
2. Chateau de Chanteloup, Martell
Many assume the architectural style of this half-timbered mansion is a tribute to the company founder. Jean Martell was indeed born on the English island of Jersey, but the structure was rebuilt in a neo-Norman style after Maurice Firino Martell inherited in 1920. It was a gesture to console his homesick wife Elizabeth from Normandy.
The property was originally purchased in 1838 by Theodore Martell. Today the chateau’s expansive grounds are home to an exceptionally friendly herd of deer who regularly eat only the best French baguettes from the hands of visitors.
3. Chateau de Cognac, Baron Otard and d’Ussé
It should be no surprise that D’Ussé, said to be Jay-Z’s favorite cognac, is aged within the walls of a true castle. In fact, King Francis I of France was born here in 1494. The history of the building actually dates back even further. It was originally constructed in 950 as a fortress to keep out Norman invaders.
The property fell into disrepair during the late 17th and 18th centuries until the Baron Otard cognac house purchased it in 1795. The massive property has several rooms used as aging cellars with varying climates within its nearly 10-foot-thick walls. Some are particularly humid thanks to its location overlooking the Charente river in the center of Cognac.
4. Chateau de Courvoisier, Courvoisier
Follow the river east from Cognac, and you’ll eventually find the Chateau de Courvoisier in Jarnac. It’s home to an impressive furniture collection that includes a buffet table from the legendary Hôtel de la Païva mansion on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. There are also several paintings by renowned artists like Erté and René Gruau.
It also boasts several historic artworks depicting Napoleon’s campaigns. It’s said that the Emperor once visited the company’s warehouses during its fledgling years in Bercy outside of Paris. The chateau, however, was built sometime between 1850 and 1870 following Courvoisier’s move to the Charente region. It served as a residence for various family members until the 1950’s. Today it contains a museum, the global headquarters, and plenty of space for guests and special events.
5. Le Club, Rémy Martin
Previously used as an aging cellar called the “Chai Salignac,” this building in Central cognac once housed some of the company’s most notable barrels. They were stored here just prior to bottling and used in some of the company’s premium VSOP blends.
In 1987, it was converted from a cellar into reception house complete with a courtyard and several rooms decorated with traditional tapestries, decorative woodwork, and even hand-painted wallpaper. Renowned French decorator Yves Taralon was responsible for the design.
6. Le Logis, Grey Goose
Yes, it’s curious that a vodka brand, a spirit with Eastern European roots, would own an old chateau in the heart of Cognac country. But brand founder Francois Thibault is actually a native of the region and began his career as a cognac cellar master.
The property, located right outside the village Juillac-le-Coq and surrounded by vineyards, dates back to the 17th century. Grey Goose purchased it in 2012 and painstakingly renovated it with the help of local craftsmen and stone masons dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage. Yet outward appearances can be deceiving. The interior is perhaps more contemporary than any of the others. There’s a salon, dining room, open kitchen, patio, and even an outdoor swimming pool with a grill and cocktail bar.
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