Cognac is the most superior known type of Brandy in the world, a benchmark by which almost all other Brandies are judged. The difference between brandy and cognac is same as the difference between sparkling wine and champagne. Therefore “All cognacs are brandies but all brandies are not cognacs” The Cognac region is located on the west-central Atlantic coast of France, just north of Bordeaux, in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. The region is further subdivided into six growing zones:
- Grande Champagne
- Petite Champagne
- Bois Ordinaries
- Fins Bois
- Bans Bois
The first two of these regions produce the best Cognac and will frequently be so designated on bottle labels. The Cognacs which are labelled Fine Champagne are a blend of Petite and Grande Champagne. Ok so let’s make this bit more easy to understand. “To state Fine champagne cognac on the bottle, the grapes used in manufacturing has to be picked from Grand champagne and Petite champagne zones. P.S I hope I was helpful :)
All Cognacs are made from wine that is fermented from the whole grape, seeds, skin and all. The wine is distilled in
pot stills with the second distillation being used to make the Cognac. The primary grapes used in making Cognac
Ugni Blanc: Ugni Blanc is an important white grape variety
in France, with about 100,000 hectares of vineyards. Ugni blanc is also used in making of Ciroc Vodka. The wine made from Ugni blanc is more acidic and low in alcohol, perfect for distillation.
Folle Blanche: The Folle Blanche variety makes light, fresh and acidic wine. In Loire and Vendee the variety is called
Gros Plant, in Gers it’s also called Piquepoul.
Colombard: Colombard is a traditional variety of Charente. If not used for distillation, the wine gets very acidic and tight but has more alcohol compared to Folle Blanche or Ugni Blanc.
The wines made from these grapes are thin, tart, low in alcohol and poor characteristics for table wines, but perfect for making brandy. Cognac is double distilled in pot stills and then aged in casks made from Limousin or Troncais oak, no other forms of wood are allowed by law. Cognac must be aged for at least two years although this seems to be a minimum benchmark. From here all Cognac’s must be bottles at the source to earn the name.
C: Aged for a minimum of two years in wood.
V.S: “Very Special” or 3-Stars, should be aged for at least three years in wood.
V.S.O.P: “Very Special Old Pale” or 5-Stars, should be aged for at least five years in wood. The industry standard for blending is selecting ages between 10 and 15 years old.
X.O: “Extra Old” aged for a minimum of six years. With the average age running 20 years or older.