Cognac

Cognac Glas© cognacrestaurant.com

Cognac is a special superior brandy originating from the city of Cognac in France from the adjoining vineyards in the region Charante or Charante-Maritime.

The name Cognac has been protected since 1920, so the name "Cognac" cannot be a synonym for brandy - similar to brandy, tequila or champagne.

In Germany Cognac is also often referred to as brandy.

Every Cognac is brandy, but not every brandy is Cognac.

Cognac einschenken© poitou-charentes-urlaub.de

Cognac must have an at least 40 per cent alcohol content and is distilled at least 2-fold in a traditional copper pot.

The storage in oak barrels has to exceed a period of 2 years. For the "real" Cognac certain production methods have to be fulfilled.

In particular, certain varieties of grapes are pressed and fermented to yield a very dry and bland white wine.

The Ugni Blanc (also known as Trebbiano) is the 90% most widely used grape in the wine-growing regions.

Rare Folignan, Meslier-Saint-François, Montils, Jurançon Blanc, Sémillon and Select are grape varieties that can also be used.

Cognac-growing areas

The above mentioned grape varieties are grown in the following production areas (by value in descending order):

Grande Champagne

Cognac Karte© wikipedia.orgCognac Anbaugebiet© bacchus-wine-tours.com

The highest quality grapes come from the Grande Champagne. Particularly worth mentioning is that this region is rich in lime from which the grapes get their soft floral notes. However this variety of grape requires a relatively long maturation period in oak barrels.

Petite Champagne

In a semi-circle around the Grande Champagne area is Petite Champagne. Geographically and geologically this region contains less lime which makes the grapes less intense. If the Cognac contains at least 50% grapes from the Grande Champagne and the rest from Petite Champagne it may be called "Fine Champagne".

Borderies

The smallest growing area is the Borderies. The soil contains a lot of clay and flint which arises from the decomposition of limestone. Aromas of gentle violets is characteristic of Borderies grapes. These grapes are used for special "Borderie Cognacs" or they serve the Master Blender well for blending.

Fins Bois

The soil in the Fins Bois is clay and limestone - but significantly less than in the Champagne region. The grapes ripen quickly and are used for smooth and easy Cognacs.

Bons Bois

Characteristic are sandy soils, since the Bons Bois area is near to the coast - but also deciduous and coniferous forests are found in this area. About 9,000 hectares of land of Bons Bois is used for the production of Cognac.

Bois Ordinaires

In the Bois Ordinaires region is a region that is located directly on the coast. Accordingly the ground is particularly sandy. The flavor of the grapes is a maritime nation and they are ostensibly used for white wines.

Six Crus (qualities) characterize the Cognac Quality

Cognac Weintrauben© bonsalpo.com

The wine-growing region is instrumental for the quality of the Cognacs since the 1930's.

The six areas of Charante were established by the French Government in the year 1909. Each Cru produces a distinctive taste. Grande Champagne, the area around the towns of Cognac and Seconzac yields the highest quality and most aromatic brandy.

Grapes from the Petite Champagne area are rapidly maturing and have a less intense flavor.

In the hills north of Grande Champagne you will find the Borderies. Grapes from this area have a much rounder and softer taste.

The grapes of the remaining three regions, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires are primarily used for other fires.

Cognac history

Cognac brennen© derberater.de

In the seventeenth century the town of Cognac in the French region of Charante was an exporter of salt and wine.

The wine was especially popular with the Dutch and English merchants who had visited the region. They distilled the wine so that the long voyage home had no effect on the durability and quality of the fire.

The first Cognac distilleries

By the eighteenth century two men whose names have become synonymous with Cognac, founded separately successful distilleries. One of them was the former French smuggler Jean Martell. He came to Cognac and built a distillery at the Charent River.

The other - the Irishman James Hennessy, who served in the French Navy - built his distillery in 1765 on the river.

The following year the company received its first order for Hennessy from the American colonies. Soon after the fine Cognac was also exported to the Far East and both distilleries have never looked back.

Cognac distilleries along the river are ideal for the ripening process

Original warehouses were built on the river in the first place for easy carrying. The cellars of the houses were mostly wet.

This proved to be beneficial for the maturation of Cognac since moisture reduces its sharpness but gets its taste volume. A dry basement produces a sharper brandy. Today distilleries try to build near rivers or keep their cellar damp artificially.

Cognac Produktion© pinterest.com

Ingredients for the production of Cognac

Since early times the distillation process was carried out in large copper kettles (alembic) which were crowned with a long gooseneck. Under French law the capacity should be kept small to ensure a slow and precise distillation.

The identical law also defines the distillation period. This begins in November and ends in late March. One aspect of the distillation process has changed over time, namely the heat source. Only wood was used, then coal and gas may be used today.

The grapes are harvested in the winter where they are particularly fruity and have the potential to generate 8 to 9% alcohol. Grapes that produce less than 8% alcohol is too weak to produce the desired flavor.

The laborious, time-honored distillation and their meticulous maturation process is what Cognac is all about. The Cognac which is drunk today is still made by the identical methods of the 17th century. The distillation of Cognac is a two-step process:

  1. A first distillate (predatory edge) is recovered from the 8 to 9 percent of wine. This has an alcohol content of 28 to 32 percent.
  2. The Rape edge is in the second stage to brandy with a maximum of 72% alcohol.

Slow ripening for excellent Cognac

Cognac Probe aus dem Fass© spiritsjournal.klwines.com

This brandy is stored to mature in oak barrels made of wood from the Limousin and Tronçais forests. It takes several decades to reduce this to 40% alcohol. Each year the spirit loses about 1.5% alcohol (called Angels' share).

For uniform coloring caramel may be added as a colorant.

The slow maturing years in the cellar gives the Cognac a superb suppleness and incomparable taste.

The wood and the dark humid atmosphere of the cellar cooperate to develop the ideal flavor of the Cognac to its full potential.

Each Cognac is aged for at least 24 months but usually the minimum storage period is often exceeded significantly.

Cognac names and ages

The name "Cognac" was not associated with distilled wine until 1783. At this time the French government had developed regulations for the identification and classification of Cognac and its quality:

Cognac Etiketten© spiritsjournal.klwines.com
  • V.S. (Very Superior or Very Special) or 3 stars is matured for at least two years.
  • V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), Vieux or Reserve is at least four years old.
  • X.O. (Extra Old), Napoleon, Extra, hors d'âge, Royal, Très Vieille Réserve Vieux is matured for at least six years - from 1/4/2016 this Cognac needs at least 10 years maturation for this designation.

These are mere minimum specifications. Most distilleries store your high-quality Cognacs for much longer. Important: The age always refers to the most recent barrels in Cognac. This is important because it is common for example in Rum to expel the oldest distillate.

This "disagreement" ensures that it can be quite difficult for the consumer to find their way in the spirits jungle.

Enjoy Cognac

Cognac is enjoyed neat first and foremost. Cognac is also quite delicious in many cocktails. The following cocktails with Cognac can be found in selected bars:

Cognac Cocktail© 31dover.com
  • French Connection
    (3 cl Cognac & 3 cl Amaretto)
  • Horse Neck
    (5 cl Cognac, bitter liqueur & Ginger Ale)
  • Cognac Caipi
    (5 cl Cognac, 1 lime & cane sugar)
  • Stinger
    (5 cl Cognac & 2 cl Creme de Menthe)
  • Between the Sheets
    (2 cl Cognac, 1 cl whitr Rum, 2 cl Cointreau & 1 cl lemonjuise)
  • Cognac Mojito
    (5 cl Cognac, 5 fresh mint leaves, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 limes, 2 cl juice & Ginger Ale)
  • Mont Blanc
    (3 cl Cognac, 3 cl Cointreau & whipped cream)
  • Rolls Royce
    (3 cl Cognac, 3 cl Cointreau, 8 cl Orange juice & 1 protein)
  • Alba de Cognac
    (3 cl Cognac, 2 cl Orange juice & 1 cl raspberry syrup)
  • Betsy Ross
    (4 cl Cognac, 4 cl Port wine, 1 shot of Cointreau & 1 shot of Angostura)

Cognac even has its use in the kitchen, perfect in sauces, marinades, jams and chocolate.

Cognac mit Eis© visit-poitou-charentes.com

Pure tasting of Cognac can be improved with the right choice of glass.

Generally, there are three different types of Cognac glasses: tulip glass, balloon glass and tumbling glass.

As with any quality spirit it is essential to avoid using ice.

Most spirits lovers will enjoy Cognac lukewarm. This means that the Cognac is heated with warm hands through the glass.

This is how the pleasure is usually carried out for all popular matured spirits such as rum, whiskey or tequila.

The tasting itself is carried out in four steps:

Cognac Tasting© cognac-pasquinet.com
  1. Color:
    Examine the color of the distillate. Most spirits without dyes can give conclusions as to the ripening time and cask types. A Cognac with sherry cask maturation will have a reddish and dark coloring, however maturation in "normal" oak barrels is much brighter.
  2. Nose:
    Approach with the nose of the Cognac and inhale the scents of the distillate. Especially important: Take your time! The "Nosing" is an essential part of the enjoyment. Concentrate on what nuances can be discovered by sniffing: fruity, spicy or flowery? In addition we often find how much volume of Cognac develops on the palate.
  3. Palate:
    After you have allowed enough time when nosing, sip the glass and keep the Cognac in the mouth for a few seconds. So many nuances can be identified and the Cognac can develop its full volume.
    What can you taste? Is the Cognac rather sweet, bitter, sour or salty?
  4. Finish:
    "swallow" Enjoy the aromas and flavors.

Cognac is one of the most exquisite and expensive spirits in the world.

Cognac Hennessy© csmau.com

The true connoisseur knows that a good Cognac is quite pricy. Storage times of more than 140 years are known and commercially available items.

A really good Cognac however is easily available from a storage period of 30, 40 or 50 years. The most expensive Cognac we know is the Hennessy Beauté du Siècle @ around 150,000 €. Cognac is therefore a concept which must be equated with luxury.

For the "average income" the following scale applies: Expect to pay more than 50 € for a respectable Cognac. Anything less is more suitable for mixed drinks and cocktails. It should ideally be an XO as a solid shelf life is guaranteed.

Buy Which Cognac?

There are over 200 Cognac producers in the small "Cognac region" in France. Some have made it to the big players among the spirits groups. Particularly noteworthy is Moet Hennessy.

Cognac De Luze XO
Cognac De Luze XO

For this group in addition to various spirits brands such as Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, 10 Cane, Belverdere and Chopin includes famous fashion labels such as Louis Vuitton, or the watch brand TAG Heuer.

With more than 30 billion euro in sales and 120,000 employees the impressive global corporation carries the branding of a Cognac and champagne manufacturer. Other world-famous brands are Courvoisier, Martell and Remy Martin.

Other notable experts are also Camus, Frapin, Meukow, Hine and Baron Otard.

Which Cognac, you should try?

If you want to try a classic Cognac, you should either explore the intensive Courvoisier XO Imperial or the delicious De Luze XO. For the floral and mild enjoyment we recommend Meukow XO with the Golden Panthers displayed on the bottle.

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