COGNAC: WHAT NIGERIANS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OUR BELOVED FRENCH LIQUOR

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COGNAC

Cognac is a type of brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France, it is named after the community of Cognac, France. If the brandy is not from Cognac, France then it is not real cognac, but there are other qualities that determine a true cognac:

The first base must come from white grapes, the grape primarily used is called ‘Ugni blanc’

‘Ugni blanc’ Grape used to make Cognac

It must go through two rounds of distillation in copper pot stills, which must happen between October 1st and March 31st. If the distillation process occurs before or after this period then your cognac is invalid. And aged for at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais.

ORIGIN

The origins of Cognac can be traced back to the 16th century when the Dutch, who had bought plenty of French wine had to find a way to to keep the wine drinkable on the journey back home, they then distilled the French wine into eau de vie, the product of distillation was call ‘Brandewijn’ – ‘Burnt wine’ which then came to be known as Brandy. The practice was extended to wines being exported to distant European ports and the brandy from the Cognac region became recognised as the superior brandy and its production was strictly regulated.

AGING & AGING PROCESS

Oak Casks(Barrels) are used to Age Cognac

Once the wine has been distilled twice to create the eau-de-vie, it must be aged in Limousin oak casks for at least two years before it can be sold to the public. When the eau-de-vie is put into casks, the alcohol percentage is about 70%, as the cognac interacts with the oak barrel and the air, around 3% is evaporated every year, the eau-de-vie slowly loses both alcohol and water content with the alcohol evaporating faster. The part lost to evaporation is called locally la part des anges, or “the angels’ share”. After about ten years in the oak barrels, the cognac’s alcohol content decreases to 40% in volume, it is is then transferred to large glass bottles called bonbonnes, and stored for future blending.

BLENDING

BLENDING

Once the wine has been distilled twice to create the eau-de-vie, it must be aged in Limousin oak casks for at least two years before it can be sold to the public. When the eau-de-vie is put into casks, the alcohol percentage is about 70%, as the cognac interacts with the oak barrel and the air, around 3% is evaporated every year, the eau-de-vie slowly loses both alcohol and water content with the alcohol evaporating faster. The part lost to evaporation is called locally la part des anges, or “the angels’ share”. After about ten years in the oak barrels, the cognac’s alcohol content decreases to 40% in volume, it is is then transferred to large glass bottles called bonbonnes, and stored for future blending.

Grade (XO, XXO, VS, VSOP, NAPOLEON)

DIVIN BARDAR XO, VSOP, XO COGNAC

The age of the cognac is calculated as that of the youngest eau de vie component used in the blend. Cognacs are generally classified into 3 major types based on their ages although there are other classifications and these are always signified by symbols on bottles. The minimum age of a cognac is 2 years and it could be as old as 50 years. These are the official grades of Cognacs.

MARTELL VERY SPECIAL SINGLE DISTILLERY FINE COGNAC

VS (VERY SPECIAL)

Very Superior old pale’ or ‘Reserve’ is cognac that has been aged for at least 4 years. A blend of eau de vie aged for 4-12 years. They usually have a general flavor of dried fruit and flowers.

HENNESSY VERY SPECIAL GOLD BOTTLE LIMITED EDITION

VSOP (VERY SUPERIOR OLD PALE)

Very Superior old pale’ or ‘Reserve’ is cognac that has been aged for at least 4 years. A blend of eau de vie aged for 4-12 years. They usually have a general flavor of dried fruit and flowers.

HENNESSY VSOP COGNAC

NAPOLEON

This is a blend in which the youngest brandy is aged for at least six years. A previously unofficial grade, it is used to specifically denote blends with a minimum age of six years that do not meet the revised XO grade.

CHABOT NAPOLEON

XO (EXTRA OLD)

Extra Old’. This used to be cognac that has been aged for more than 6 years until the minimum age of the youngest brandy was increased to 10 years in 2018. Extra old cognacs have been aged for 20 – 35 years. The flavours vary depending on the maker but generally they taste of dried fruits, warm spices, toffee, nuts, chocolate and sometimes cigar.

HENNESSY XO COGNAC

XXO (EXTRA EXTRA OLD)

‘Extra Extra Old’, Yes, there’s a XXO and this is a specific grade given to wine spirits that have been aged for at least 14 years. The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend must not have been aged for less than 14 years at least.

HENNESSY XXO COGNAC

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