Annual sales cognac: 300 000–400 000 bottles
Buys wine/eaux-de-vie from: Grande and Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Borderies
Vineyards of its own:  

 

Prunier is among the oldest cognac houses in the business. The Burnez branch of the family has managed the business since 1918 and is today directed by Stéphane Burnez. Stéphane is a university-trained oenologist (wine expert) and has worked for many years for the wine company Joseph Drouhin in Bourgogne until he returned to Cognac in 1987.

P9A hundred years ago Prunier owned its own vineyards and its own cooperage but this came to an end by the 1920s and instead the house started focusing on what they do best: buying eaux-de-vie, ageing and blending. Stéphane Burnez gets the vast majority of his eaux-de-vie from the four wine regions Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois and Bons Bois. He also buys some from Borderies, but never from Bois à Terroirs. Stéphane says he does not care so much about the grape varieties used, or if the distillation is done with or without lees, the most important thing is that the samples he is offered taste good.

The ageing takes place in Gimeux in the western part of Grande Champagne where Prunier, since 2007, owns a number of chais. They are all humid which gives smooth and mellow cognacs, the style Stéphane prefers. It is obvious when you listen to Stéphane that his background as a winemaker in Burgundy and the business philosophy of his former employer, Joseph Drouhin, has affected him a lot. A really good cognac should be nuanced and complex, he says. Like a really good wine.

Prunier almost exclusively mature their eaux-de-vie in old casks. Stéphane buys used casks between six and ten years of age, preferably old Vicard casks from people he knows. He prefers fine-grained Allier, i.e. casks made of oak from the Allier department in central France. Once the eaux-de-vie have been put in their casks they normally stay there until it is time for blending. Stéphane is not much for moving the eaux-de-vie from one cask the other. He says with a smile that he is lazy, he does not think there is much point in moving them around once they have been placed in old casks. He says he that he more and more has switched to using 400-liter casks, slightly thicker ones.

Prunier’s paradise cellar is impressive with a large number of damejeannes with very old eaux-de-vie. Good vintages according to Stéphane include the years 1893, 1906, 1914 and 1928. Blends from Prunier rarely consist of more than a handful of different eaux-de-vie with the exception of the Grande Champagne cognacs where Stéphane always saves about 30% of the original blend for next year. In addition to a dozen different assemblages Prunier also has an unusually large selection of vintage cognacs. It is probably only Hine that can match this range and quality.

The more you talk to Stéphane Burnez the more clearly emerges the joy and the passion that drives him. His eyes light up when he gets to talk about wine and brandy. For Stéphane, it is obvious that he is working with cognac because it is fun.

– The day it is all about business and not about quality is the day I quit, he says, looking me firmly in the eyes.

P10Stéphane has good reasons to be proud of all of his products, but when I push him a little bit on personal favourites he mentions the Family Reserve and the vintage cognac from 1967. He is also very pleased with his new VSOP Grande Champagne, which he believes will be Prunier’s future best-seller. I agree, but I would also like to recommend the two XOs and the 20 Years Old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an abridged version of a translation into English of pages 74–75 of the Swedish book Cognac – kungen av eau-de-vier (Cognac – the king of eaux-de-vie) © Stevali Production and Gunnar Svedberg, 2014.
© Gunnar Svedberg 2015-02-04

 

 

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