Cognac is a special brandy, which originates from the French town of the same name Cognac and its surrounding wine-growing areas. The basic requirements for this exclusive spirit are limited grape varieties, exactly defined distillation times and special storage conditions. In our cognac shop assortment you will find both selected varieties of well-known sizes, such as A. de Fussigny Cognac, Bowen Cognac Extra and Courvoisier Hennessey, as well as products from smaller, family-run traditional companies. Feel inspired by the fabulous selection in our cognac shop!
Definition of Cognac
Cognac is a brandy made from white wine, which originates from the town of Cognac of the same name and the neighbouring regions. The "Appellation d' Origine Contrôlée" seal of protection laid the foundation for the legally established designation of origin of Cognac in 1909. The name is therefore protected and may only be used if the grapes for the brandy used come from the specified regions.
Since 1930, the various wine regions have been divided into the following crus:
- Grande Champagne,
- Petite Champagne,
- Fins Bois,
- Bons Bois and
- Bois Ordinaires and Bois Communs.
The Grande Champagne wine region produces the highest quality cognac.
Production of Cognac
Grape varieties used
In these controlled growing regions, the Ugni Blanc grape variety - also known as Trebbiano - is cultivated for the most part (90%). The Folle Blanche and Colombard varieties make up a small proportion (10%). Less frequently, the vineyards are cultivated with Folignan, Jurançon Blanc, Meslier St-François, Montils, Sélect and Sémillon wines.
After the grape harvest, the selected grape varieties are pressed, i.e. the grapes are pressed. This vintage is not yet suitable for consumption. Depending on the type of wine, different nuances of taste are evident. The brandy from Ugni Blanc contains comparatively slightly more acidity than that from other grape varieties.
Distillation of Cognac
After pressing, an 8% wine is produced, which is not yet fit for consumption and is distilled in the traditional still (Alambic Charentais with a maximum of 30 hectoliters) during the winter months. The legally established distillation process begins in early November and must be completed by the end of March at the latest. The wine is then subjected to a two-stage distillation process. After the first distillation, a so-called "Brouillis" (28-32% vol.) is produced, an unclear raw distillate. From this, in the second distillation pass, "La bonne Chauffe" is formed, a fine brandy with more than 60% alcohol content. The by-product of this distillation is called "Eau de Vie" or water of life. It is not edible and remains in the still.
Storage and Maturing
The high-percentage fine spirit is then matured in new, re-filled, coarse-pored oak barrels from the Limousin or Troncais regions. French barrique barrels can hold about 225 liters. Cognacs from the Bois Communs, Bons Bois and Fin Boins regions are ready to drink after only about four years. Higher quality cognacs from the other regions require more time for their maturation and the development of their unique aromas - the maturation times of the cognacs therefore vary depending on the region of origin.
Blending and bottling
The blending of the cognac is the heart of the cognac production. The cellar master's work consists of marrying the carefully selected cognacs up to the assemblage. The master blender responsible for this process has a wide range of expertise and is very familiar with the stored cognacs and their individual taste characteristics. In addition, during blending, the alcohol content is diluted to ready-to-drink 40-45% by volume by adding distilled water or faibles, a cognac-water mixture. After this process the finished distillate is bottled. When a cognac has reached the desired maturity but is not yet ready for marriage, it can be stored indefinitely in demijohns (traditional glass vessels in a basket).
Classification of Cognac
The different ages of the cognacs are defined by law. The older a cognac is, the more wood aromas it has already absorbed and the rarer it is. These factors naturally determine the price - the older and rarer, the more expensive the cognac. The age on the bottle is determined by the maturing time of the "youngest" cognac added at the time of marriage.
The Cognac categories in ascending order are:
- V.S. (Very special) or three stars (***) or Sélection: is a Cognac Blend, with a Cognac matured for at least 2 years.
- Cuvee Superieure or Grande Sélection or five stars (*****): This Cognac has been matured for at least five years.
- V.S.O.P. (Very superior old Pale) or V.O. (Very old) or Viex (old): Is a Cognac Blend, with a Cognac matured for at least 4 years. Also 7 to 12 year old Cognacs are often in the blend.
- X.O. (Extra old) or Napoléon, Hors d'age, Tres Vieux, Vieille Reserve: Is the highest class of Cognac and includes brandies that have been matured in wooden barrels for at least six years. Often 20-40 year old cognacs are also included in this category.