Marathon du Cognac
In November every year, my husband is looking for a bit of an adventure in the way of a marathon. I go along, generally to support him, but also to take in an adventure of my own........anything for a food or wine holiday.
The event takes place in Jarnac, the home of Courvoisier, about 100k north of Bordeaux. The first challenge was to find a place to stay that was close enough to the race so that we didn’t have to drive. We were in luck when I found a stunning Chateau a short walk from the start line. The Chateau Saint-Martial turned out to be one of the nicest places we have stayed in a long time. Brigitte, the owner, was extremely welcoming and helpful with restaurant suggestions and places to visit. The Chateau sits on 2.5 hectares of park along the Charente river. The property was once owned by a cognac producer but has since turned into a B&B.
The interesting thing about the Marathon du Cognac is that throughout the race you run through cognac cellars. Most races have a pasta party the night before and a wind up party the evening of the race. Let me tell you, the French know how to party!! At the pasta party, there were bottles of wine and cognac in abundance and music. With about 1000 people attending the carb loading, it took eons to get our meal but the french passed the time by dancing in the aisles. As I already said, the French can party and that was reflected in the costumes the following morning at the race start. To keep the party spirit going, at a few water stations you can taste the local cognac and the recovery drink is a cognac and soda concoction. It is not only served to the runners but to the spectators as well.... interesting drink but not on my must order again list.
A visit to this area would not be complete without going to the Hennessy headquarters in Cognac. They have a very good tour that shows you where they get the grapes from and what the different soil does for the flavour. Apparently the cognac master is 8th generation for Hennessy. When they mix their high end blend, they take cognac from each generation and combine them to produce their special blend. It actually was intoxicating walking through the cellars. We found the same in Jarnac while walking in the streets past the old Courvoisier storage buildings. Courvoisier had to move all of their cognac out of the town for safety reasons. Can you imagine a “cognac conflagration”? One of the bi-products of cognac is a drink called Pineau. Pineau is actually a blend of grape must and cognac eau de vie. It was accidentally discovered after a winemaker put some grape must into a barrel he thought was empty but had eau de vie. The barrel sat for a few years before discovering the drink Pineau.
The other must see in this area is Isle de Re where the grey sea salt and fleur de sel comes from. This island apparently gets as much sun as the south of France and has miles of salt marshes. The salt production goes back to the 14th century monks in this area. Not surprising to any of my friends that I returned home with a few bags of salt to add to my ever expanding collection.
Before we leave Europe I will have to convince my husband to run the Maratono do Porto.
Marathon du Cognac