Following on from my time at the Frapin stand and a focus on the ageing process [LINK], I subsequently attended this superb masterclass, presented by Frapin’s export director Bertrand Verduzier.
- Frapin we are told, is the only Cognac house in the Grande Champagne region with a castle on its 240 hectare estate – the Chateau de Fontpinot.
- The word Champagne is derived from the Latin, campania, first used to describe the open countryside around Rome.
- Bertrand explains that Cognac is all about soil/terroir, logically followed by the grapes. The Grande Champagne region has a specific terroir. Frapin is hilly with chalky soil owing to the sea withdrawing from the region +/-80 million years ago and leaving surface sea sediments/shells/fossils. This culminated in a chalky terrain that lay on top of clay & sand from the Cretaceous period as well as clay beds and even coal underneath that. This soil condition is ideal for growing grapes for distillation.
- Frapin use wine at 10% abv for distilling in 6 different pot stills.
- They have the biggest cask collection in the region with around 15000 barrels.
Starting with the eau de vie and finishing with a 30yo vintage, we explore the evolution of Cognac through the years.
Frapin eau de vie  71%
If I had my way, every masterclass would start with the house distillate. Thumbs up Frapin.
- N: Buttery-sweet with leafy floral spearmint.
- T: Fruity>copper, spearmint leaf with a very soft aromatic leafy heat.
- F: Sweet coppery raisins.
- C: Very fine & tasty base spirit. Not dissimilar to many whisky distillates.
Frapin 2014 un-Ob. 45.3%
- N: Slightly more bready, but essentially very similar to the eau de vie. This remember is only one step up from the spirit itself, having spent around a year in new oak.
- T: Unsurprisingly, you can clearly identify the distillate, simply cask softened a touch without any obvious additional complexity.
- F: [no notes].
- C: An excellent start from a young grape spirit.
Scores 78 points
Frapin V.S. Ob. Grande Champagne 40%
Now with a full year or two [I’m guessing] in refill casks, after a year in new oak.
- N: Stage two of our Cognac evolution sees a mild candy sweetness and a developing creaminess on the nose.
- T: An edgy/youthful ripe fruity palate with fresh sour-bitter cream.
- F: Soft, murky and tasty.
- C: Good and simple. This doesn’t feel undermined at 40% abv whatsoever, a consistent theme amongst the majority of the Cognacs I tried at the show.
Scores 82 points
Frapin 2012 4yo un-Ob. 44.3%
Stage 3 sees a Cognac with one year in spent casks after 1 year in new oak followed by two years in refill oak.
- N: The copper note from the eau de vie is back, along with a linseed oiliness and curious ‘industrial’? sweet sugars.
- T: Ripe fruits, spicy hints, a metal-y softness and a little raspberry coulis.
- F: Reasonable oaky length.
- C: Bertrand says this is the first balanced Cognac of the flight, though in his experience, still an unfinished one.
Scores 83 points
Frapin VSOP Ob. Grande Champagne 40% WF80
With an age of between 8-10 years, this official bottling was voted best VSOP at the World Cognac Awards in 2016.
- N: That’s more like it. With a subtle complex ‘finesse’ and deeper leathery body, this style coupled with balance says Bertrand, is the goal.
- T: Sails effortlessly with wonderfully soft and gentle oaked sugars.
- F: More plain sailing and the beginnings now of some [aniseed] spice.
- C: Though practically old enough to be called XO, Bertrand insists this is a VSOP through and through. It’s the style that defines the spirit type, not the age – and this he adds, is a perfect example of the VSOP style.
Scores 84 points
Frapin 2006 10yo un-Ob. 43.8%
Technically an XO
- N: The evolution continues with this Cognac having now spent around 7 years in spent oak. With it we see subtle differences/a step up from the VSOP, this being a little richer/deeper.
- T: A richer body & sugars with some clearly defined malolactic development.
- F: Dry oils [glycerol says Bertrand], some char showing , vanilla and a little caramel.
- C: Reaffirming his previous statements about style over age, Bertrand considers this as the top level juice for VSOP blends, though some of us [malt drinkers], reckon this is decent enough to be bottled as a vintage single cask Cognac in its own right – “one man’s ceiling,…”
Scores 85 points
Frapin XO Chateau de Fontpinot Ob. 41% WF82
Frapin warehouse-mature their spirits either on the humid yet temperate ground floor [angels share 2%], or on the drier & more heat-fluctuating first floor/attic [angels share 4%]. Made from grapes grown in a particular 1/3 of their domain, this XO is typically dry attic-aged Cognac and considered to be signature single estate Frapin.
- N: Very light, clean fruity/musky.
- T: Obviously fruity, dry [sides of tongue], yet salivating [mid-palate]. An ideal drinker.
- F: Long finish on aniseed/cinnamon bubblegum and dry sweet fungal. Water however completely hollows it out.
- C: Despite having now travelled six evolutionary steps on from the eau de vie, the Frapin family resemblance to the distillate still holds true.
Scores 84 points
Frapin 1986 30yo un-Ob. 44.5%
- N: Very subtle and single malt-like. Distillate-faithful with subtle notes of fungal glue, fruits, earthy terroir and a salty depth. Very reminiscent of earlier spirits #2 & 3.
- T: Dense/strong and salivating spirit, now with a developing rancio herbal quality, green leafy candy, funky fruit & fungal sugars.
- F: Very quiet aniseed candy spice – if at all, and a permeating oak depth.
- C: Bertrand concludes by explaining that Frapin Cognac works really well at a relatively young age and again much later on. Between 12-15 years, Frapin doesn’t work at all, he says – this appearing to be a general theme throughout the day, also amongst other Cognac houses. VSOP and XO are considered the epitome of balance for their age, with another wave of balance coupled with deeper complexity coming in after around 20-25 years. Though considered again by Bertrand as an unpolished Cognac, this far older expression was for me & some fellow malt fans in the room, the stand out Cognac of the flight.
Scores 87 points