Unlike poire and framboise, Cognac is not distilled from fruit, nor is it made from the byproducts of the winemaking process, such as the stems and stalks that form the foundation of grappa and its French counterpart. Instead, cognac starts with young, unaged wine and is crystal clear after distillation, like any distillate or eau de vie. The oak barrels in which it ages between three and one hundred years provide the color and most of the flavor.
How is cognac different from brandy?
Every Cognac is a brandy, but not every brandy is Cognac, as the French would say. The French region of Cognac (along the Charente River in southwestern France, above Bordeaux) has carefully preserved its identity, much like Champagne; the same is true of Armagnac in the Gascony region, which has been making its own wine distillate even longer than Cognac. Distillers in other countries must call their products "brandy," although the term, which comes from Dutch and means "burnt wine," is now used to describe a wide range of spirits.
The History of Cognac
The arrival of the Dutch in France in the 16th century gave birth to Cognac. They bought a lot of French wine, but they could not keep it drinkable on the way back, so they started distilling it. Brandewijn ('burnt wine') became known as 'brandy', and wine merchants started distilling their brandy twice to save space while transporting it on ships.
What is the Highest Quality of Cognac?
The great Cognac houses of today emerged in the 18th century, with Martell being the first, founded in 1715 by Jean Martell of Jersey, and followed a decade later by Rémy Martin. At that time, rather than manufacturing everything from scratch, Cognac establishments were already buying brandy from winemakers and farmers. This is still the case today in Cognac, where corporations acquire grapes and eaux-de-vie as long as they meet their strict requirements.
Cognac has maintained its prestige throughout history, but it has also adopted more modern modes of consumption, such as in cocktails or combined with tonic or ginger ale. The largest names in Cognac are up there with some of the most well-known brands in the world, but the houses are still grappling with how to encourage the French to drink Cognac — whiskey outsells it by a large percentage, and Cognac has a rather outdated image. If the French want to completely accept a product that is genuinely their own, cognac makers must overcome this dilemma.
What do the letters in Cognac stand for and how does this affect the price?
There is an age certification system in the Cognac sector. The certifications are dependent on how long the cognac has been aged in wood.
VS (Very Special) - has been around and aged for at least two years.
VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) - at least has been aged for four years and also known as a reserve.
XO (Extra Old) – Has been aged for at least 6 years and sometimes known as a Napoleon. The majority of cognac establishments will employ barrels that are older than those authorized by law. Many people wait at least 20 years for their XOs to display their greatest qualities.
Blending is a frequent practice that allows the producer to get the perfect taste balance. The longer a Cognac is aged in wood, the rounder and softer it becomes. Because oak may offer amazing richness and nutty or fruity aromas, aged bottles are in high demand.
Age, the producer, price, and everything else that goes into making a Cognac does not guarantee that you will enjoy it. It just means that it has been legally confirmed to have spent that length of time in oak. At every price point, there are superb Cognacs.
Having said that, there are two names that you should consider. Extra is frequently used to indicate a unique Cognac, so keep an eye out for them. Although marketing talk can often enter into the mix, Extra Cognacs are typically exceptional because their creators name them as such. There was something about it that made them really proud, so listen out for that phrase. Of course, you'll have to pay for the privilege, but don't you want the ultimate experience?
When it comes to peak experiences, go for Hors d'Age Cognacs. It literally means "beyond age," and it's a way of signifying "priceless" in the Cognac world. These can be extremely old, possibly the oldest Cognac you'll be able to locate, and a recommended tasting experience if you can afford it. Even if you can't afford it, take a few minutes to read about the bottle's history, since each one is bound to have one.
I've decided that $200 is the upper limit for high-end bottles that are worth the investment. The law of diminishing returns kicks in after that. A $200 bottle might be worth ten times as much as a $20 one. However, I have yet to come across a $2,000 bottle that is ten times better than a $200 bottle.
The only reason you will buy a $2000+ bottle is if it is a Cognac combined with a significant amount of eau-de-vie that was produced in the 1960s and presented in a beautiful hand-blown crystal decanter. You're paying for a storyline and elegant packaging rather than the liquid at that pricing tier.
These bottles do have a market. Some people are absolutely happy to pay a premium for the privilege of drinking a rare or historic liquor. That is not an issue for me. I'm a little envious, to be honest.
However, it emphasizes the fact that expensive & luxurious are subjective terms. Fortunately, spirits cater to a wide range of budgets. However, I continue to believe that "expensive" does not automatically imply "superior."
There remains ways to increase the flavor profile and quality of lower end cognacs by using filtration technology to reduce the amount of unwanted chemicals that remain in lower quality younger cognacs. The Best way to use this is through Classy Spirits Filtration system that will reduce up to fifty eight percent of unwanted acetones in younger cognacs. The removal of acetone will increase the smoothness and quality without having to wait years for the acetones to be reduced naturally through the aging process.
You don’t have to just drink Cognac straight, if you would like to make some delicious mixed cocktails look no further than our favorite top 10 cognac drink recipes!