If you want to understand how cognac was originally produced, you need to look no further than Cognac Paul Giraud. Situated on a small hill in the Grande Champagne cru of Cognac, Cognac Paul Giruad is one of the few small, family farm cognac houses that grows all their own grapes on site, press their own wine, and then make their own cognac.
Cognac Paul Giraud is run by Paul Giraud, a fifth generation cognac maker. Much of what Paul Giraud does is done the same way his father did it and his grandfather. Most cognac producers can’t wait to show you their cellars, but for Paul Giraud it all starts in the vineyard. Paul Giraud pulls a branch down from a vine and shows me a small nub. “This is the harvest for next year and it’s determined in June of this year.” The 2011 harvest was a strange one, with weather that leads to harvesting grapes almost a month earlier than usual. “The vine wants to both protect itself and do its job to reproduce. A vine does best when it has to struggle between the two. It makes less grapes but better grapes.”
While most vineyards in Cognac have moved to harvesting machines, Cognac Paul Giraud picks all their grapes by hand. It’s a painstakingly long process, but one that matches the way they do most things in making their cognac.
The cellar for Cognac Paul Giraud is unique. Built in an old barn, it has two very distinct environments. One area is much drier than another. The humid area gets its humidity from a natural spring which Giraud’s father harnessed and directed around the perimeter of the room. The cognac craft has been passed down from generation to generation, and Paul Giraud reminisced about watching his father work: “It took a long time for him to let me do the things he was doing, little by little. He made me watch and learn and waited until I was ready.”
The Cognac Paul Giraud line has a wonderful symetry across all the products, which includes a VSOP (8 years old) , Napoleon (15 years old), Vieille Reserve (25 years old) and Tres Rare (40 years old). All the cognacs that Cognac Paul Giraud produce are pure vintage, which means that they don’t blend cognacs from different years. By not blending, they maintain the seasonality of the spirit which differs from year to year.
Cognac Paul Giraud provides a real window into the history and roots of cognac. By doing everything by hand and following closely the methodology of generations past, Paul Giraud carries on his family’s legacy.
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