What Are The Benefits Of Drinking Cognac
Unlike a variety of other liqueurs and spirits, cognac was never initially conceived as a medicinal aid. Indeed, it has always been regarded as a beverage for pleasure. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that cognac might have a few health benefits as long as its consumed in moderation.
For example, cognac may contain sufficient antioxidants to improve heart and blood circulation as well as protect against either gallstones or type 2 diabetes. However, cognac must be respected like any alcoholic spirits and too much may impact your health.
The Grapes And Their Regions
The area around the commune of Cognac, France, is divided into six grape-growing regions within the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments. Officially, the main grape varieties used in cognac must be ugni blanc , folle blanche, and colombard there are also less common grapes used in small quantities in production, including jurançon blanc, sémillon and folignan, to name a few. The most expensive fruit comes from Charentes Grande Champagne district and Petite Champagne, which straddles both Charente and Charente-Maritime.
Understanding Cognac And Brandy
Brandy refers to any spirit that is distilled from fruit-based wine, though in general it refers to grape wines. Brady can be made from any fruit wine such as pear, plum, or apple as long as it is labeled with the fruit it is made from. The taste of brandy varies depending on the fruit it is made from and its age, but generally they are sweeter than whiskey and taste of flowers, fresh and dried fruit, and citrus zest.
Brandy must be aged in barrels and has different age designations for each level of quality.
VS Brandy must be aged no less than 2 years
VSOP Brandy must be aged no less than 4 years
XO Brandy must be aged no less than 6 years
While older brandies are certainly enjoyable sipped straight, the VS, and in many cases, the VSOP are better off mixed in tall drinks or classic cocktails. Brandy is often mixed with coke, but due to the flavor profile of brandy, it also pairs very well with citrus. Consider trying to mix it with lemonade or a lemon/lime flavored soda.
Some brands are mass produced and kept young and are best mixed regardless of the age designation, such as E& J or Christian Brothers, but there are many smaller brands that are great on their own that are aged much longer. Germain Robin is one such company.
Brandy is also a staple for cooking and is great with desserts. When cooking with brandy, only VS should be used.
When drinking it neat:
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In Particular It Must Be Made From Specified Grapes Of Which Ugni Blanc Is The One Most Widely Used Cognac Is Made Mostly From Grapes Called Ugni Blanc Ugni Blanc Gives Us Acidic Wine That Is Low In Alcohol Between 75 And 105% So This Is Used To Only Create Cognac Not To Drink It There Are Other Varieties That Are Used Named Folle Blanche And Colombard But About 98% Of Cognac Is Ugni Blanc
How is Cognac distilled and aged?
The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine when aged in barrels, and most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement.
This area is made up of 73,000 hectares of vineyards of which there are six different growing areas. Grande Champagne is known for making powerful cognacs. The second area is called Petite Champagne, and it is know to make elegant cognacs. Borderies is the third area, and makes well-rounded cognacs with violet aromas. The fourth area is called Fin Bois, and makes fine and elegant cognacs. The last two areas are named Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires.
Grande Champagne and Petit Champagne both have chalky soils. Hence the use of the word Champagne . Cognacs made from grapes of either, or both Grand Champagne or Petit Champagne are called Champagne Cognacs. In Borderies and Fin Bois, there is a thin layer of clay before the chalk soil. And that gives those areas different characteristics.
From November to December, the grapevine lies dormant. Around March, the vine begins its bud breaking. By mid-May, the first leaves appear. Mid-June marks about 100 days before the harvest. Mid-August is 45 days before the harvest the grapes are getting bigger. They become translucent and they gorge with sugar. And the harvest starts at the end of September or early October.
Other Types Of Brandy
Brandy is a very diverse family of spirits that goes beyond cognac. “There are a number of styles and ways to make brandy,” Erickson says. “Every producing region has their own traditions.”
There are as many different styles of brandy as there are places it’s made. Brandy de Jerez from Spain, Raki or Rakia in the Balkans and Mediterranean, and the grape-based Italian grappa are all standouts. There are also many brandies produced in California’s wine country by large and craft distillers alike. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most well known styles of brandy.
Eau de vie: French for “water of life,” eau de vie is a term that describes unaged brandy. Eau de vie is a clear spirit made to showcase the ripeness and freshness of the fruits used to produce it. This term is sometimes used to describe the fruit-based distillate before it is barrel aged.
Armagnac: Armagnac is a popular style of French brandy distilled in the Armagnac region Gascony, Southwestern France. It’s similar to cognac, but since it is produced in a different region with different traditions, has a different protected name. Compared to cognac production, armagnac brandies are produced by much smaller distilleries in smaller amounts more for local consumption.
Calvados: Made in the Calvados region of Normandy, Calvados is a French apple brandy distilled from hard apple cider. Along with Cognac and Armagnac, Calvados is a legally protected style of brandy.
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How To Properly Drink Cognac
Firstly, there is no wrong way to drink cognac as long as you are enjoying it. For instance, cognac is traditionally served neat but it can also be enjoyed chilled with ice or even as part of a cocktail.
Nevertheless, there are ways that you enhance or optimise your tasting experience to really appreciate what a cognac has to offer.
Firstly, we would refrain from chilling or adding ice to cognac. Cognac is specifically hydrated from its original 70% ABV to 40% ABV in order to provide the optimal concentration that offers the best experience. As the ice melts, it dilutes the spirit.
Although some spirits such as whisky can benefit from adding water, you usually only introduce a drop to open the flavours. However, as the ice melts, it often waters it too much and dilutes the cognac until it loses its body.
Similarly, chilling a spirit slows the evaporation. Consequently, it doesnt release its aromatic compounds and also loses its flavour.
Finally, cognac is often enjoyed as a digestif after a meal. However, it is recently being appreciated as an excellent beverage for pairing with meals. Cognac is known to marry well with cheese yet younger blends can be enjoyed with charcuterie or even fish!
Otherwise, chocolate is an excellent accompaniment and we have even written extensively about pairing cigars with cognac, too!
History Of The Cocktail
The Stinger originated about 1890. The cocktail may have been derived from The Judge, a cocktail made with brandy, crème de menthe, and simple syrup found in William Schmidt’s 1892 cocktail book The Flowing Bowl. It was immediately popular in New York City, and quickly became known as a “society” drink . According to bartender Jere Sullivan in his 1930 volume The Drinks of Yesteryear: A Mixology, the Stinger remained a critical component of the bartender’s repertoire until Prohibition.
The Stinger was not initially seen as a cocktail , but rather a digestif . Writing in the 1910s and 1920s, humorist Don Marquis‘s “Hermione” refused to refer to the Stinger as a cocktail, indicating its status in upper-class society. Over time, however, the Stinger came to be consumed like a cocktail.
The Stinger was a popular drink during American Prohibition, for crème de menthe could mask the taste of the inferior-quality brandies then available. The Stinger began to lose favor with Americans in the late 1970s, and was not a well-known cocktail in the early 21st century.
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How To Drink Brandy
Brandy is often enjoyed straight. Well-aged and higher-end brandies, cognac, and Armagnac are particularly well-suited to sipping from a brandy snifter. The specialized glass with an oversized bowl wonderfully captures the aroma of room-temperature brandy and makes the experience more enjoyable. Nearly all brandies, including chilled eau-de-vie and room-temp grappa, make a nice digestif to enjoy after dinner. Grappa is also commonly served in or alongside hot espresso in Italy.
Brandy is an excellent cocktail ingredient. It is one of the most common base spirits for classic cocktails and it’s often lightly enhanced with just a few other ingredients. Sangria and mulled wines are some of the more elaborate mixes that traditionally include brandy. You’ll find many old recipes that feature apple, apricot, cherry, and peach brandies as well. Spanish brandy works well in mixed drinks, and pisco is famously used in a pisco sour but finding its way into a number of modern drink recipes as well.
What Is A Cognac
Cognac is a distilled spirit, specifically, an exclusive type of brandy. According to French law, a bottle of cognac can only be legally called “Cognac” if it is made in the Cognac region, in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments.
Cognac is situated in the Southwest part of France and has proximity to Bordeaux. To put it simply, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac. It’s is very similar toChampagne since this type of sparkling wine can only be made in the Champagne region in France.
The aging process has a significant impact on the flavor of cognac. Proper aging should make cognac rich and complex. You can expect caramelized fruits, leather, spices, and citrus flavors on most cognacs.
Meanwhile, the aromas of this liquor are also extensive. One event that can attest to this is a gathering between highly-skilled cellar masters, sommeliers, and expert tasters carried out in 2019 at the International Cognac Summit.
50 experts spent 4 days smelling various cognacs. Imagine the dedication! The whole purpose of the event is to simply make a definitive guide that’ll unravel all the brandys complexity and extensive aromas.
They decided on five very notable aromas in cognacs, including vanilla, caramel, prune, orange, and apricot. Furthermore, they recorded 63 additional subtle notes.
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Are Brandy And Cognac The Same
Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes. Well, sort of. All Cognac is brandy but all brandy is not Cognac. Similar to how all Champagne is sparkling wine but all sparkling wine is not Champagne. Are we seeing a trend with our French friends?!
Victor Hugo, that romantically inclined gentleman who wrote melodramatic tales like Les Misérables, refers to cognac as the liquor of the gods. With such a repertoire of art under his belt, Im inclined to believe him. So, in order for this godly spirit to be cognac, it must come from the Cognac region, which youll find in the Southwest of France.
It is believed that the Cognac region has a superior terroir, which means it makes a superior brandy. This is the biggest difference between brandy and cognac brandy can be made anywhere in the world. So, where does Cognac come from? Cognac can only be made in Cognac. Additionally, there are other subtle yet important differences that elevate Cognac above its brandy brethren.
Terminology And Legal Definitions
The term brandy is a shortening of the archaic English brandewine or brandywine, which was derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, itself derived from gebrande wijn, which literally means “burned wine”. In Germany, the term Branntwein refers to any distilled spirits, while Weinbrand refers specifically to distilled wine.
In the general colloquial usage of the term, brandy may also be made from pomace and from fermented fruit other than grapes.
If a beverage comes from a particular fruit other than exclusively grapes, or from the must of such fruit, it may be referred to as a “fruit brandy” or “fruit spirit” or named using the specific fruit, such as “peach brandy”, rather than just generically as “brandy”. If pomace is the raw material, the beverage may be called “pomace brandy“, “marc brandy”, “grape marc”, “fruit marc spirit”, or “grape marc spirit” “marc” being the pulp residue after the juice has been pressed from the fruit.
Within particular jurisdictions, there are specific regulatory requirements regarding the labelling of products identified as brandy. For example:
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A Brief History Of Cognac
Today, Cognac can only be produced in France, but the first records of Cognac production date back to the seventeenth century in Holland. French wine growers took notice of the Dutch method of distilling wine using the same process used to distill gin, and started making the spirit themselves. By the 1700s, several major Cognac distilleries were established in the Cognac region of France, with the most popular grape variety for making Cognac at the time being the Folle blanche.
In the 1870s, a plague of Phylloxera insects swept the region and decimated the grape crops. After the crisis, the folle blanche grapes were replaced by the ugni blanc grape as the most popular Cognac grape variety, which is currently the dominant grape used for Cognac production. Today, there are around 200 producers distilling Cognac in the region. More than 90 percent of the U.S. market is dominated by only four producers, three of which were established in the 1700s.
A Word About Flavored Brandies
There are two types of flavored brandy on the market today. A true brandy is distilled directly from the fruit and contains no sweeteners. It’s also common for some brands to add sweeteners and other additives to flavored brandy, making them more like a liqueur. The sweetened options are typically bottled around 35 percent ABV , and they are good substitutes for liqueurs . When shopping, read the labels and look for extra ingredients to know what you’re buying and how to use them in mixed drinks. With older cocktail recipes designed for true apple or apricot brandy, for instance, you may need to reduce the drink’s sweetener.
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How Is Brandy Made
The process may vary according to the distillery that makes it, but there are 4 basic steps to obtain it.
What Are Some Famous Cognac Brands
If we’re talking about the most prestigious cognac brands here, you might want to check out Hennessy, Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier. These are some of the dominant names in the Cognac industry.
Hennessy VS or Remy Martin XO is an excellent starting point for those who want to experience the taste of cognac. If you’re looking for something different and special, try Courvoisier XOor Kelt XO – both worth every penny!
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Common Ways To Drink Brandy And Cognac
Because of its inherent sweetness, brandy and cognac are often served as a digestif an after dinner drink. “The iconic way to drink brandy is neat in a big snifter glass,” Erickson says. “But it’s also great served on the rocks and mixes incredibly well in cocktails.”
“In a lot of senses, I think brandy is undervalued in the mixing world,” Erickson says. “It’s great at rounding out and softening other spirits in drinks or even swapping them out entirely.” The most well-known cognac-based cocktail is the Sidecar, which mixes cognac with dry Curacao and lemon juice.
“Brandy and cognac were often used in classic cocktails from New Orleans,” Erickson says. Golden age drinks like the Sazerac were originally made with cognac before shortages led to the base spirit being switched to rye whiskey.
What Is Cognac Made Of
The main ingredient in cognac is white grapes, but not just any grapes of the white variety. There are only three main kinds of white grapes that can be used. These are the Folle Blanche, Colobard, and Ugni Blancalso known as Trebbiano.
This is another similarity to Champagne since this sparkling wine is also made with only three main Champagne grapes, albeit different ones from cognac.
The Ugni Blanc is the predominant grape variety in the entire Cognac region. Approximately 98% of the grape-growing regions in Cognac are cultivated with the Ugni Blanc grape.
This is because it’s much easier to cultivate and maintain. Plus, it yields large quantities compared to other grape varieties. However, one downside of this grape is its sensitivity to winter frosts. It thrives the best in mild climates.
The second grape variety is Folle Blanche, which is famously known for being one of the main grape ingredients for Armagnac .
It used to be the most famous grape variety used in making Cognacs until the Ugni Blanc overshadowed it. Although, both grape varieties produce wine with acidity, lightness, and freshness.
The third variety is the Colombard grape, which has been around for quite some time. In fact, it is one of the oldest grapes from Charente that still thrives today. Originally, this was made as a cross-product between the grapes varieties Gouais and Chenin Blanc.
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