Good cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle and warm it in your hands before you sip it. -Winston Churchill
Cognac is brandy. Brandy comes from the dutch origination meaning ‘burnt wine’. However, like Champagne, it can only come from the Cognac region in France.
Cognac is made primarily from the Ugni Blanc grape. After the grapes are pressed, the juice is then allowed to sit in local yeast to start the fermentation process. Then the fermented juice is placed into Copper stills (see below). The juice goes through a double distillation process with a furnace heating the copper stills. The first round gives off a liquid with a 24-30% alcohol content. This liquid then goes through another distillation process called “la bonne chauffe”. This process leaves behind three parts – the “heart”, “head” and “tails”. The heart is the only part kept, because of its clear nature and being 68-70% alcohol by volume. The head and tail are put back through the distillation process.
Now the barreling takes place. The heart is put into oak casks from Troncais and Limousin. Limousin and Troncais are forests in the Cognac region of France. This process has a minimum barreling of 2 years. This barreling process is extremely important to cognac. Cognac actually loses volume from evaporation at a rate of 3-4% per year. This evaporation as been coined the ‘Angels share’. The age of the cognac is also based on the number of years it spends in the oak barrel. Unlike wine, cognac stops aging when it is put into the bottle.
Here are some of the bottleing terms for age:
VS = Very Special also known as three star and aged for a minimum of 3 years.
VSOP = Very Superior Old Pale also known as five star and ages for five years.
XO = Extra Old aged for six plus years.
So that bottle in the cellar isn’t getting any better – crack it open.
Well known Cognacs in America - Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, and Remy Martin.
Want the good stuff?
Remy Martin’s King Louis XIII – Bottle runs about $1,500-2,500 or $150-$300 per serving at a bar containing the expensive stuff.