Cognac 101

Last Updated: October 1, 2021

Cognac is a type of brandy from the Cognac region of western France, located south-west of Paris and just north of Bordeaux. The base wine is made primarily from white grapes Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard. Distillation occurs twice, exclusively in a copper pot still. The resulting eau de vie is a clear liquid with roughly 70 percent alcohol.

Following distillation, aging must occur in French oak barrels sourced either from Limousin or Tronçais. The aging process (and occasional inclusion of caramel coloring) gives Cognac its amber color. Durings its time in barrel, the spirit loses about three percent of its alcohol and water volume each year. This phenomenon, which occurs with all spirits, is known as “the angels’ share.”

Cognac is often a blend of more than one eaux de vie. The youngest portion of the blend is indicated by the following most common label designations:

· V.S. (Very Special): Aged for at least two years in oak cask.
· V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale): Aged for at least four years in oak cask.
· XO (Extra Old): Aged for at least 10 years in oak cask.
· XXO (Extra Extra Old): Aged for at least 14 years in oak cask.

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