Cognac Fine Champagne is the protected appellation for Cognac blended from the region's two most-prestigious crus: Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne. To qualify for the title, at least 50% of a Cognac Fine Champagne must be made from Grande Champagne.
The Cognac vineyards are classified into six crus (delimited growing areas), which radiate unevenly from the eponymous town itself. The Champagnes are responsible for the most-famous eaux-de-vie from Cognac and are the appellation's main production area, although even when combined they don't produce as much as the larger Fins Bois cru.
The Fine Champagne title often leads to confusion between Cognac and the Champagne sparkling wine region, 300 miles (280km) to the north, but this is easily explained. Champagne originally meant 'open country' and carried connotations of idyllic, perhaps gently rolling, pastoral landscapes – a character demonstrated by both of these great vineyard regions. In both cases, the champagne landscape in question is characterized by a high content of chalk or limestone. These geological factors are an essential part of the terroir.
The Champagne terroir is characterized by a maritime climate and chalky clay soils over limestone and sandstone bedrock. With the concept and importance of terroir being as important in Cognac as anywhere else in France, these soils are widely viewed as the reason behind the particular nutty style of Fine Champagne Cognac. They were formed between 70 and 90 million years ago, when global sea levels were at their highest and the area was essentially the eastern corner of the Atlantic seabed. Millions upon millions of seashells were deposited during this time, then ground up over the millennia and compacted into the chalk and limestone which remain today. Such was the impact on local geology that two geological ages of this period (the Upper Cretaceous) have been named after local settlements to the west of Cognac. The Campanian age is named after the small village of Champagne (not to be confused with the nearby Champagne crus or the sparkling wine champagne), while the Santonian age takes its title from the town of Saintes.