AOC area for a vin de liqueur in the two départements of Charente and Charente-Maritime in south-west France. It is almost identical to the area for the Cognac. According to a legendary tradition, the invention of this liqueur was a coincidence. In 1589, a forgetful winemaker is said to have filled up a small barrel, which was still filled with some cognac, with grape must. When he was surprised to find that no fermentation began, he placed the barrel in a cellar corner. After a few years he wanted to empty the barrel and to his surprise he discovered a clear, sweet tasting liquid which he liked very much. The varieties Ugni Blanc(Trebbiano Toscano), Colombard, Folle Blanche, Jurançon Blanc, Blanc Ramé(Meslier Saint-François), Merlot Blanc, Montils and Sémillon for the Blanc, and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the Rosé are permitted. The grapes must have a potential alcohol content of at least 10% vol. Fermentation is stopped by adding cognac (mutage).
Then the Blanc is aged for at least 12 months and the Rosé for at least eight months in mostly large oak barrels. A rosé is usually sweeter and fruitier than the usually much drier matured Blanc. The "Vieux" (old) must be matured for at least five years, the "Très Vieux" (very old) or "Extra Vieux" (extra old) at least ten years. For these two varieties, the maturation must take place in barrique barrels and the quality must be certified by a tasting commission. The alcohol content must be between 16 and 17% vol. and the residual sugar content between 125 and 150 g/l. Older products may have a rancio or firn shade. The annual production quantities are more than 100,000 hectolitres, of which 55% is Blanc and 45% Rosé. There are over 500 winegrowers and a few large cooperatives, which of course results in a very wide range of quality. Other French vin-de-liqueur products are Floc de Gascogne and Macvin du Jura.