Variety is the spice of life but it can be confusing when it comes to alcohol. Here are five easy steps to follow when considering what bottle of cognac you should invest in.
Gentlemen may or may not prefer blondes but they almost certainly have a taste for brandy. To be precise, we are talking about cognac. Cognac is an international drink of class and substance, one that properly classy people swear by. Just as beer is the perfect drink for casual occasions, cognac is the standard bearer of dress formal.
Considering the variety of brandy, of which cognac is a subset, available, it can be quite challenging to choose the right bottle. Here are five essential points to consider when determining one’s drink of choice.
Know Your Spirit
- Generally, cognac is a blended spirit. Like whisky and champagne, this is done to create consistency of quality.
- You are not buying the vineyard or a vintage but a particular brand’s expression of cognac’s flavor profile.
- The blend in question for cognac is of double-distilled white wine at 70% alcohol by volume called eau-de-vie. Eau-de-vie must be aged to become suitable for consumption.
- Vintage cognacs from single eau-de-vie harvests are unusual because individual eau-de-vies, even aged, are often undrinkable.
- Single distillery (grapes from across Cognac distilled in one place) and single vineyard (harvest from a single estate within Cognac) are more typical.
Know the Age
- Like school, cognac has grades and they are printed clearly on the labels.
- VS or Very Special cognac indicates that the spirit has been aged in a cask for at least two years.
- VSOP, or Very Superior Old Pale, has been similarly aged for a minimum of four years.
- XO or Extra Old cognac has been aged for at least six years but most XO cognacs will be older.
Know the Designations
- Special designations used to classify the origins of your potential bottle of cognac, which usually identify the specific region or regions whose grapes have contributed.
- These classifications or crus include (in descending order of officially recognized quality) Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires.
- Each region produces a cognac with a slightly different flavor, and most blends are known for defining characteristics dependant on the crus they use.
- Perhaps the most famous blens, Fine Champagne cognac is a combination of Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne only.
Know the Labels
- Clearly, the label is important because it is packed with all sorts of useful information.
- Most prominent of all will be the brand or house responsible for your bottle. Most of the information in steps 1-3 will also be on the label.
- If you are looking for what might theoretically be considered the best quality from Cognac, then you should look for the following words: Appellation Grande Champagne Controlee (Grande Champagne) and Mis en bouteille a la propriete (Estate Bottled).
Know the Background
- The other guide you will always have with you is your own knowledge so arm yourself accordingly.
- There are excellent online resources such as the official Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac and Cognac World, which also offers links to cognac sellers.
- Perhaps best of all are the beautiful books written on the subject of cognac. Here’s a list of recommended reading: (Click on the image for more information)
Courtesy Luxury Insider