Cognac - irrevocable, incomparable
With a fine cognac you hold true French distilling art in your hands. Cognac is a protected designation of origin and can only be found in its original homeland. But brandy made from white wine has not only been fruitful since the designation of origin was introduced in 1920. Since the discovery that the wine disembarked from the port of La Rochelle quickly took on vinegar tones and therefore had to be strengthened, cognac has established itself throughout the world as a fine spirit. The noble assemblages benefit from ancient cognacs, which give the fresh body of the latest vintages an extraordinary character. Whether solo, as a digestif or even as a basis for mixing - Cognac offers you more than just sublime enjoyment and harmony, it offers the eau-de-vie in an amber form.
The grape varieties of cognac
Cognac from the west of France is mainly produced locally from the three most cultivated white grape varieties. Ugni blanc, also known as Trebbiano or Saint Emilion, holds the largest share of this and provides the cognac with the necessary acidity. In addition, Colombard, responsible for flowery aromas, and Folle Blanche, the alcohol supplier, are the supporting actors in the production of Cognac. Seldom do Sèmillon, Meslier-Saint-François, Montils, Folignan and Jurançon Blanc find their way into the cuvée, which also incorporate the Atlantic climate and the loamy limestone soils.
The origin of cognac
In 1930, the cognac growing regions, spread over the Charente and Charente-Maritime départements, were divided into 6 crus, based on the quality of the products and the soil, which spread outwards like rings from the centre of the region.
The créme de la créme of the grapes used to produce cognac comes from more than 13,000 hectares of chalky soils. Situated entirely in the Charente département, the Cru is completely surrounded by Petite Champagne and Borderies. As a centre for the highest quality cognac, the largest producers of cognac are located in the Grande Champagne. The grapes produce very elegant and lively cognacs, which can be called Cognac Grande Champagne if they are pure.
The rural environment of the towns of Jonzac, Archiac and Barbezieux devotes around 15,000 hectares of land to white wines reserved for the production of cognac. The calcareous soils offer conditions similar to those of the Grande Champagne. However, cognacs from Petite Champagne are considered less delicate, as reflected in the quality hierarchy. The rare cognacs, which come exclusively from Petite Champagne, may bear the label Cognac Petite Fine Champagne.
The smallest production area - around 4000 hectares - stretches along the slopes of the Charente river and is known for its rich floral and nutty aromas. In addition, the Borderies cognacs are fully matured after a short ripening period and are quite mild in character. The brandies, which originate exclusively from the Borderies sites, bear the name Cognac Borderies.
The fourth Cru Fins Bois encompasses the three vineyards Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Borderies and, with about 32,000 hectares, represents the largest area under cultivation for Cognac white wines. Characteristic of the cognacs from Fins Bois is the rapid ageing of the brandies and the fruity fresh taste, which gives the assemblages a multi-layered structure.
Even further outside, the approximately 9,500 hectares of Bons Bois are used for the production of white wine for cognac. The ageing of the cognac takes place very quickly and results in soft and fruity brandies. The nearby Atlantic Ocean and the heavy clay are mainly responsible for the typical Bons Bois character, which enriches the cuvées with depth and complexity.
The Bois Ordinaires feeds its vineyards with fresh Atlantic winds and sandy soils that give cognac a unique character that clearly distinguishes it from other growing regions. Only 1,700 hectares are used for the cultivation of cognac, which means that there are only a few areas along the Atlantic coast from Royan to La Rochelle. And even if the Bois Ordinaires sites are at the end of the hierarchy according to this categorisation, the cognacs from the Atlantic also find their way into the assemblages for noble cognac.
Quality levels of the cognac
The quality levels of the cognac are based on the maturation period in the oak barrels from the regions Limousin, Tronçais and, more recently, Allier. The indication of age always refers to the youngest cognac in the assemblage.
- Three stars (***), VS (Very Special) or Sélection: at least 2 years In oak casks
- VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), VO (Very Old) or Vieux: minimum 4 years
- Napoléon, Hors d'Age, Très Vieux, Impérial, Vieille Reserve: Minimum 6 years
- XO (Extra Old): Represented as an independent quality level since 2018, the Cognacs X.O. spend at least 10 years in oak barrels.
The production of cognac
The production of a cognac begins with the harvest of the grapes. These are mainly the three main varieties, Ugni blanc, Colombard and Folle blanche, which are harvested by hand and then made their way into the cellars.
There, the grapes are used to make a wine that is not intended for consumption and usually has a volume of around 8%. In the winter months, from the beginning of November to the end of March, the traditional distillation may take place in the Alambic Charentais. This copper distillation apparatus has a maximum capacity of 30 hectolitres and is heated directly by a fire, so that the wine can be distilled twice. The first pass results in the raw brandy, called Brouillis, which, after liquefaction, has a volume of between 27 and 30%. Alcohol. This raw brandy is distilled a second time, whereby only the middle cut, the heart of the cognac, is used for further processing. The fine brandy, traditionally called cœur, contains up to 72% vol. but loses some of its strength in the following maturation in oak barrels.
The barrel combines the aromas of cognac with those of wood. Depending on the origin, the storage time differs; Bons Bois and Fins Bois need about four years, Cognac from better locations considerably more. Over the years, the distillate enriches itself with its brownish colour until the time comes for the marriage, the assemblage. Here different vintages and crus are blended and diluted with pure water to produce a distillate that is in line with the market. Sometimes the cognac is also blended with a mixture of water and cognac known as faibles. Finally, the finished cognac is filled into beautifully shaped and artistic bottles, which once again underline the valuable character of the French spirit.
Our VINELLO recommendation
Delamain Pale & Dry X.O. in gift box - Cognac Delamain
The Delamain Pale & Dry X.O. in radiant amber from one of the most renowned houses of the Grande Champagne promises a wonderfully full-bodied and shallow pleasure. The harmonious interplay of powerful aromas of lemon, vanilla and flowers with light nuances of liquorice testifies to the great finesse of the distillers, who have enriched the outstanding status with life and pleasure time and time again since 1762. Let yourself be inspired by an elegant and delicate cognac of the top class, which gives you a long finale on appropriate occasions.
Things to know about Cognac
Cognac is a French brandy from the Charente and Charente-Maritime regions. Cognac is made from white wine and traditionally distilled. Cognac is usually an assemblage, a blend of several cognacs, sometimes mild, sometimes powerful, but always fruity.
What is the optimal drinking temperature for cognac?
The ideal drinking temperature for cognac is 21°C.
How to serve cognac correctly?
Cognac is served in a cognac swirler to draw out all the aromas from the cognac with a little swirling.
How long can cognac be kept?
Cognac in a bottle has a virtually unlimited shelf life, as the brandy no longer ages when bottled. Nevertheless, the wine should be stored standing and in a temperature-resistant place at 20°C. The temperature of the wine should not be too high. Even an open bottle of cognac can still be drunk for years, but loses alcohol when it comes into contact with oxygen.
What goes with cognac?
Cognac is suitable as a digestif after a meal, with coffee or even with a cigar.
Buy Cognac online
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