In 1795, Baron Jean-Baptiste Otard, having escaped death-by-guillotine in the French Revolution, found the perfect premises for his new business—the Château de Cognac, overlooking the River Charente, 400 kilometers south-west of Paris.
What sold him wasn’t the property’s 11th-century origins as a fortress, nor the luminous Renaissance halls designed by Leonardo da Vinci, nor even the fact that King Francis I of France was born there.
As a cognac trader, the baron bought the site for its location.
“Cognac houses set up alongside the Charente because of the river’s direct access to the sea. Like wine traders in Bordeaux and port houses in Porto—all established riverside—the priority was reaching export markets,” explains economist Véronique Lemoine, consultant to Bordeaux’s Wine Culture and Tourism Centre 2014 and also founder of a cognac tasting school.
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