During the mid-1860s, a tiny pest called Phylloxera vastartrix literally decimated French vineyards. At an enormous expense these were re-planted mainly with grapes other than the Folle Blanche or Colombard which were so common, and in doing so the flavour of cognac was changed forever.
However, it is still possible to get your hands on pre-phylloxera cognac and be able to experience the taste sensation of years gone by. An expert on the subject, Salvatore Calabrese, author of the book Cognac: A Liquid History, says that many of the cognacs which are still available are from a single vineyard and a single year. These cognacs are produced from grapes which were descended from rootstock originally planted in roman times and have an intense and almost floral flavour. Calabrese states that ‘they have a hint of chocolate and a sweetness on the finish.’
There are barely half a dozen places in the world that allow you tastes of these rare cognacs, and the demand for these old cognacs has mushroomed almost out of control. Right now, the Russians and the Chinese are buying up aged cognacs – not to drink, but as an investment opportunity.
The high prices which are being paid are luring many to sell cognacs which have been languishing in cellars. For example, a 1790 cognac which could have been bought a couple of years ago for around £10,000 could now easily reach twice that price.
Sources: www.privateclubs.com, www.finestandrarest.com