What is Cognac?
Cognac is a specific type of brandy, produced in the region of Cognac in France. To be adorned with the title of a Cognac, a producer must follow strict rules of production and sourcing ingredients. These restrictions are upheld by the French AOC (appelation d’origine contrôlée).
People often wonder, what is cognac made of? Cognac has to be produced with white grapes. They must be at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard. Up to 10% of the grapes can be Folignan, Jurançon Blanc, Meslier St-François, Sélect, Montils, or Sémillon. These grapes are described as very dry, acidic, and virtually undrinkable before distillation and aging.
The grapes have to be pressed, and fermented with the region's native, wild yeast. Distillation must take place in traditionally shaped copper stills. Two distillations must be carried out, resulting in an eau de vie at around 140 proof.
After the distillation, the eau de vie must be aged in Limousin oak casks for at least two years. Through this process, the alcohol content lowers to around 80 proof. The liquid is then stored in large glass bottles prior to potential blending. Blending is then carried out in some cases, though this does not have to take place. Many classic cognacs are blends.
What Does VSOP Mean?
VSOP means ‘Very Superior Old Pale.’ What this translates to is that the oldest cognac in the blend must be aged at least 4 years. VSOP cognac drinks are a massive step up from VO and VS varieties, though we will clarify this later.
Apart from in the case of VO, when blending two cognacs together the age is always determined by the youngest cognac used. This means that most cognac brands are keen to make their VSOP incredible products, as they take so long to produce. This does normally make a higher price point in most cases.
What Does Cognac Taste Like?
When wondering what does cognac taste like, it is hard to stay general. Generally, cognac tastes like candied fruits, with some spices, some leather notes, caramelized fruits, and citrus. These are just the general guidance notes when trying to articulate the general flavor to someone, all cognacs have distinctly different flavors and aromas.
The taste really comes from what is cognac made of, the deeply dry grapes. The fermentation and aging process gives an incredible depth of flavor, often producing some slightly vanilla top notes, with a deeper smoky aftertaste.
Generally, the tasting notes that producers provide are a good line to go off. Cognac brands have worked tirelessly to produce the finest products possible. Though there is not too much deviation between processes, there is still able to be a distinct flavor profile differential. We believe the top cognac brands do an amazing job of articulating what is unique about their cognac drinks.
What Are The Types Of Cognac Available
When talking about what is cognac, we can refer to the different quality grades. When you purchase cognac online, make sure to reference this guide to see which are the premium cognacs, and which are just overpriced.
The different grades are as follows:
- V.S. Very Special - Refers to a blend where the youngest brandy has been aged for a minimum of 2 years.
- V.S.O.P. Very Superior Old Pale - Refers to a blend where the youngest brandy has been aged for at least 4 years.
- Napoléon - This refers to a blend where the youngest brandy has been aged at least 6 years (apparently a favorite of Napoléon).
- X.O. Extra Old - The youngest brandy in this blend must be at least 10 years old.
- X.X.O. Extra Extra Old - Refers to a blend that is at least 14 years old in its youngest part.
- Hors d’âge: Beyond Age - Refers to a designation that is theoretically equal to XO, but in practice, it basically means a product that is so elite it goes beyond the official scale.
What Are The Best Brands Of Cognac
The best types of cognac are from the best producers. When you buy cognac online, it does not necessarily broaden your choice of cognac. Due to the extremely strict restrictions, there are only really a few producers out there. The best types of cognac are the ones that stick to their process and do not produce too many products.
Remy Martin is one of the best cognacs that is produced. They have a range of products, ranging from their incredibly affordable XO to a bank-breaking century-old cognac. Remy Martin was founded in 1724 and has been a mainstay on the cognac scene ever since. Remy is enjoyed all over the world, by cognac lovers, artists, bartenders, and beyond.
Martell is another of the most widely recognizable producers in the world. Their products can be found in supermarkets, bars, pubs, and beyond all over the world. You do not need to order cognac online to enjoy Martell, but you might get an amazing deal if you do!
Once again, and this will be a theme throughout cognac, they have a wide range of products. Their most famous product is quite affordable, but they do produce bank-breaking products that might make you think about a second mortgage.
There are so many incredible cognac products we could recommend to try. As previously mentioned, the strict production process puts these at a relatively high price point for spirits. Though there are some more affordable options, the price point has quite a steep increase once we get beyond their standard product.
First of all, if you’re just looking for an everyday cognac, you can’t go wrong with Hennessey. We would recommend drinking this on its own, with some ice. It is perfect for regular drinking, and won’t break the bank at all. It can also be used as a mixer, or in a cocktail, and you won’t have to take offense due to its affordability and rounded taste.
Remy Martin 1738 is a step up in terms of quality and price from the Hennessey flagship product. This VSOP has a pronounced flavor, without being too overpowering. It has all of the amazing, sweet fruit flavors of a younger cognac, with extra finesse.
The Maxime Trijol Extra Grande Champagne Cognac is a much finer drink than the previous two. This stature is evident first and foremost in the bottle it is presented in. The decanter looks like an artwork. The spirit is full-bodied, balanced, and smooth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cognac A Whiskey?
People that purchase cognac online might not always know the difference between a cognac and a whiskey. They are both strong and brown liquids. However, cognac is not a whiskey. Whiskey does not follow any of the strict guidelines in place to be classified as a cognac. They are often drunk in the same way though.
What Is The Difference Between Cognac And Brandy?
Cognac is actually a brandy. Brandy just means that the spirit is distilled from some kind of fermented fruit juice. Cognac is made from grapes, like its French cousins Calvados and Armagnac. Cognac is a specific type of brandy that is made in the cognac region. other kinds of brandy are given their names because of similar regional/production qualities.
Is Cognac A Champagne Or Wine?
Cognac is not champagne or wine. Cognac is a brandy that is distilled from wine. Wine as we know it is essentially a fermented wine, while cognac is a distilled wine. Cognac cannot be considered champagne either as champagne grapes are either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay.
Why Is Cognac Called Fine Champagne Cognac?
When a cognac is made with around half of its grapes coming from the Grande Champagne region, and the other half coming from the petite champagne region, it can be called a fine champagne cognac. It is not considered champagne because it does not have the grape varieties mentioned above, but its typical Ugni Blanc is grown in the champagne region.