What Is Cognac Understanding This French Brandy From Vs To Xo
By: Beau Farrell on Sep 13, 2017 1:21:39 PM
“All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac.”
What is Cognac? Yes, it’s complicated. Named after the town of Cognac, France, Cognacs are made from white wine mostly from the grapes of Ugni Blanc then double distilled in copper pots, and lastly, aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac then matures the way whiskeys and wines do.
It’s not easy to become a Cognac, and once you experience the beauty of a Cognac, you’ll appreciate the rigorous methods to create this distilled French brandy. Experience the nose of a beautiful Cognac, then settle in your favorite quiet place to sip and savor.
The first thing you’ll notice on the labels are the different classifications.
A Field Guide To Cognac
Everything you need to know about Cognac.
A comprehensive guide to Cognac.
Eater Drinks recently took a broad look at the world of brandy, hammering home the point that not all brandy is Cognac. Now though, it’s time to focus on France’s Cognac region and offer a thorough explanation of its namesake spirit and its many finer points.
A Brief History of Cognac
The history of Cognac stretches back to the 1600s. Story has it that wine exported from the region to Holland was deemed unsatisfactory. The Dutch had already begun distilling gin, so they began distilling the wine they were receiving, too. As they took notice in France, winemakers then shifted to distillation themselves.
Some of the largest brands formed quite early. For instance, this year offered notable anniversaries for two: , the oldest continually operational Cognac brand, with a history stretching back to 1715, celebrated its 300th anniversary and Hennessy, with its own history stretching to 1765, celebrated its 250th birthday. While it’s not a celebratory year for Rémy Martin, the brand’s history stretches back nearly as far as Martell’s, to 1724.
Cognac is a specific type of brandy produced from distilled white wine.
Cognac Distillation and Blending
What is Cognac exactly? Cognac is a specific type of brandy produced from distilled white wine. It must be distilled twice, using copper pot stills, and aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Two stills at Courvoisier.
Cognac Changes Xo Age Classification To Spirits Aged At Least 10 Years
Rule comes into effect on April 1 in order to formalise industry blending standards.
From the beginning of April, cognac is undergoing its most significant rule change in decades, with the spirits XO age classification adjusted to mean at least 10 years old.
Previously, XO could include cognacs aged at least six years old or more accurately six and half years from harvest, since there is half a year from the first autumn grape pressing to April 1, which is when most distillation is complete and the eaux-de-vie put in barrel.
The change has been introduced to bring the classifications in line with the categorys own common standards, because many XOs have long blended eaux-de-vie aged longer than 10 years, and often 15-20 years. By formalising this practice, the cognac industry is protecting its long-term quality standards, but also guarding against the temptation to bottle younger eaux-de-vie under the label as global demand puts increasing pressure on stocks of longer-aged spirit.
Cognacs presiding body, the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac , first announced the plan in 2011, but gave producers a long lead time in order to mature more stocks for longer. Under the new law, producers will also be able to sell those XOs bottled before March 31 with younger spirits up until 31 March 2019.
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Cognac Xo Age Classification Increases To 10 Years
The Cognac industry has increased its XO age classification from the current six to 10 years.
Taking effect from 1 April this year, in accordance with the provisions of the Cognac specifications, all XO Cognac brandy will be classified as 10 years old, trade body the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac has confirmed.
This means the youngest eau-de-vie included in a blended Cognac labelled XO must have been aged in barrels for at least 10 years, instead of the six years previously required.
The changes would be introduced to extend the quality positioning of the category, said the BNIC, which first announced the amended law in 2011, but is implementing the change this year in order to give producers longer to mature their stocks.
In addition, with many XO Cognacs on the market with the youngest eau-de-vie exceeding 10 years of age, the new measure would align the regulation and the market reality, added the BNIC.
To support producers with the transition, the BNIC has put into place a system that allows Cognac XO spirits, classified as six, seven, eight and nine years, pre-packaged by 31st March 2018 and in accordance with BNIC provisions to be marketed as XO until 31st March 2019.
To be able to take advantage of this lead-time, producers must send the BNIC a statement of the pre-packaged XO* eaux-de-vie stocks concerned by the 1st March 2018.
Agricultural And Wine Sectors
An important rural Region, Nouvelle-Aquitaine has a varied agriculture. Cattle breeding ” rel=”nofollow”> Limousin, Bordelais, , , Gasconne, and Béarnais) is predominant in the Bressuirais and Confolentais grove and in the Aunisienne plain, on the high Limousin plateau, in the Bazadaises and Chalossiennes Hills and is used both in the production of meat to milk production. There are also two other bovine regional breeds do not belong to the list of official French breeds endangered. The area has many quality labels .
Goats are mainly concentrated in the north of the region and are used for cheese production . These four departments alone account for 30% of French goat herd, more than 200,000 heads. Some departments complement this area . Sheep farming is well represented in the Limousin the Charentes , the Médoc and the Basque and Bearn Pyrenees.
Pig farming, which represents a significant part of the agri-food sector is distributed throughout the region and is guaranteed by the label “porc du Sud-Ouest “. The pigs in the region are used to produce many meat products, starting with the famous Bayonne ham. Many farms have also specialised in poultry production including yellow chicken Saint-Sever and poultry of Sèvres val and fat waterfowl , primarily designed for the production of foie gras and confit. Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the first European region for foie gras . The label “Canard à foie gras du Sud-Ouest” occupies a large part of the region.
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Cognac Vs Vsop Xo : The Different Cognac Quality Grades
When it comes to choosing a bottle of Cognac, the range of different grades on offer can make selecting the best one a little complicated. The labels on the bottles are printed with V.S., X.O., V.S.O.P. and there are sometimes stars on the classification too. The price of each of the Cognac grades varies a great deal as well, so what does it all mean? What is the difference between a VSOP Cognac and XO Cognac ? Have a look at our guide to the classification of Cognac so you can understand what you are buying.
A Guide To Buying Using And Storing Xo Sauce
Daniel Ng / Flickr / CC 2.0
XO sauce is a condiment that was created at one of Hong Kong’s high-end dining establishments in the early 1980s. Legend has it, a cook at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon developed the sauce and named it after the pricy drink-of-the-moment, XO cognac. It is a chunky combination of dried seafood and Chinese aged ham, as well as other seasonings. It quickly became a hit, and today it appears in restaurant kitchens across North America. XO sauce is more than a table condiment, however. Its complex flavor is used to enhance stir-fried meat, seafood, tofu, and vegetables, as well as noodle dishes.
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What Is The Best Cognac
Best Overall: Frapin Château Fontpinot XO. Best VS: Bache-Gabrielsen Tre Kors. Best VSOP: Hardy VSOP. Best Innovation: Camus Ile de Ré Fine Island. Best for a Sidecar: Pierre Ferrand Ambré Best for Sipping: De Luze VSOP. Best for Beginners: Hine Rare VSOP. Best Organic: Hardy VSOP Organic.
It’s A Craft Product That Can Be Imitated But Not Replicated Anywhere Else In The World
Ethan Fixell has written about beer, wine, spirits, and coffee for over a decade. Formerly a beer director for New York City restaurants, he has also educated consumers at guided tastings for Astor Center, NYC Wine Company, Virtual With Us, and more.
Put that whiskey down. I’ve got something better.
For years, I, too, was a huge whiskey drinker first bourbon, then rye, followed by Scotch. But my stiff beverage of choice would be replaced after the death of my teetotaling grandfather.
As the family boozer, I was tasked with assessing Grandpa’s liquor cabinet, largely untouched for the last 30 years. Soon, I was unceremoniously dumping dozens of corroded, half-drunk bottles of ancient gin, cheap blackberry brandy, and oddly colored wine down the sink. All that remained after the Great Liquor Massacre of ’16 was some Michter’s rye from the ’80s, a bit of fancy-looking Bordeaux , and a modest bottle of Cognac.
Judging by its faded, unassuming label, my cousins and I had assumed that the Cognac like most bottles sampled before it would taste like hot ass. For laughs, I cracked it open anyway to facetiously savor a long, comical sip. Butit was good. Really good. Incredible, in fact.
I choked a little, inhaling a few drops of my future child’s college fund. What was this delicious spirit, and why was it so expensive? Wasn’t this the stuff that Fetty Wap had named his squad after? How the hell did it get into my Grandpa’s hands?
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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 spiritmarc 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:
What Do The Different Cognac Grades Mean
The lettering given to the different Cognacs acts as a guide to the age of the brandy :
- V.S. Cognac is the youngest, and the letters stand for Very Special. This Cognac can also be marked with 3 stars. For this classification, the eau-de-vie has been left to age for at a minimum of 3 years.
- V.S.O.P. Cognac is a Very Superior Old Pale classification, and it is sometimes given a 5 star marking. The eau-de-vie has been aged for a legal minimum of 5 years.
- X.O. Cognac is Extra Old. Since April 2018, X.O. can only be used if the eau-de-vie has been aged for a least 10 years. Prior to 2018, it only had to age for 7 years. This change was dictated by the B.N.I.C. in 2011. There will be bottles available that had the X.O. label applied before the 2018 changes.
- X.X.O. or the Extra Extra Old classification. This is a recent category and was added because producers wanted a way to show they had something a little older to offer their customers. This classification means that the Cognac will have been aged for at least 14 years.
- Napoleon, Réserve Familiale or a Vieille Réserve must have been aged for at least 10 years, but in practice these Cognacs will normally have been aged for many more years to give it a celebrated taste.
- Hors dAge is widely considered the highest quality Cognac. This will have been aged, usually for more than 30 years but in many instances, it is difficult to tell the exact age of Cognacs in this classification as they have been around for so long.
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Ten Cognacs To Consider
Frapin V.S. An estate-produced Grand Champagne Cognac known for its refined, balanced taste, sweet aroma and silky smooth finish.
Very special is an appropriate term for this single distillery Cognac.
Camus V.S.O.P. EleganceElegance is a preferred Cognac, known for its hints of orange, pear, and apricot, with a touch of spice and vanilla.
Courvoisier V.S.O.P. A classic Cognac with a look nearly of Bourbon. It’s smooth and aromatic, with hints of apricots, vanilla, and caramel.
D’USSE V.S.O.P. A bold, full-bodied blend with touches of cinnamon and floral notes, and wonderfully smooth.
Hardy V.S.O.P. Aged for an average of eight years, Hardy produces quality Cognacs using traditional production methods.
Hine V.S.O.P. Slightly sweet with a touch of brightness, and a cocktail friendly Cognac that bartenders are turning to as well.
Hennessy X.O.Smooth, delicious and one of the most beloved Cognacs available for a reason.
Rémy Martin X.O.You can’t talk about Cognac without talking about Rémy Martin, and if you’re going to have a Rémy Martin, sip on this.
Rémy Martin Louis XIII This may not be in your price range today, but it’s worth mentioning we have it available if you are interested. Produced by House of Rémy Martin, this rare Cognac is aged at least 40 years. Tasting notes and scents of myrrh, honey, immortelle, plum, honeysuckle, wood bark, leather and passion fruits. It’s the ultimate Cognac experience.
Frapins Chteau Fontpinot Xo Is The Best Of The Best
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Liquors / Chloe Jeong
Cognac is the spirit you should be reaching for and drinking now, says certified cognac educator Ms. Franky Marshall. Thats, in part, because of its diversity. Made from grapesprimarily high-acid, low-alcohol ugni blanc varietythat are fermented, twice-distilled, and then matured in oak barrels before blending and bottling, this brandy from Frances Cognac region is not just for sipping after dinner by the fire. In fact, its one of the widest-ranging spirits categories out there.
Much of the difference between bottles has to do with how long they are aged. Younger VS, or very special, cognac is blended from brandies at least two years old, while an XO cognac, or extra-old cognac, gets its rich depth because it must be aged at least six years. The VSOP, or very superior old pale cognacs, blended from four-year and older brandies, are right in the middle, with characteristics of both youth and age.
We consulted with our experts and have curated the best cognacs to get right now. Thanks to its balanced flavors and intense aromatics, Frapins Château Fontpinot XO is our top pick.
Read on for our complete list to find your next favorite cognac.
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What Do The Initials Vs Vsop And Xo Mean
VS, VSOP and XO refer to the age and quality of the cognac. Each corresponds to how long the brandy has been aged in oak barrels. In 1983, following a request by the BNIC *, the French government drafted regulations governing the terms used to describe a cognacâs quality. These designations, which may be included on the label, refer to the age of the youngest eau-de-vie used in making the cognac.
VS stands for âVery Specialâ: only eaux-de-vie at least two years old can be used to make a VS cognac. Other denominators and expressions are permitted, such as â3 starsâ or âluxuryâ, and as such are included in the VS cognac category.
VSOP stands for âVery Superior Old Paleâ: VSOP cognacs are created from eaux-de-vie aged for at least four years. The VSOP category includes designations such as âOldâ or âReserveâ.
XO stands for âExtra Oldâ: XO cognacs are made only from eaux-de-vie at least six years old. Cognacs such as âNapoleonâ or âOld Reserveâ are equivalent to XO cognac.
Incidentally, the reason these abbreviations are in English is because cognac has been exported for many years and the first importers spoke English.
Got It But Then Whats Cognac Exactly
All cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.
Since brandy is such a broad term for fermenting fruit juices, there are naturally an invariable amount of subsets of liquor inside that general framework. Cognac is one of themand likely the most well known.
Cognac is specifically created in the Cognac region, in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments, of Southwest France. If it doesnt originate there, it isnt real cognac. But, there are even more qualifications that the spirit must uphold to be considered true cognac.
First, the fruit juice base must originate from white grapes of one of six different terroirs, but primarily, the main grape used is called ugni blanc. Cognac then goes through two separate rounds of distillation: it begins sometime in October or early November and is legally required to end by March 31. If you finish your distilling process after midnight on March 31, youve got invalid cognac on your soiled hands.
Despite the apparent specificity, there are three separate qualifications of cognac, marked by symbols you’ll often see on bottles and barrels, based around aging:
- VS: Very Special, a cognac thats aged for at least two years
- VSOP: Very Superior Old Pale, a cognac that’s aged for at least four years.
- XO: Extra Old, a cognac that has aged six years, or more.
Bottom line: Cognac is a type of brandy made from distilled white wine, made in one, very specific, region of France.
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