How does a cognac become a vsop cognac

 

VSOP cognac can be branded as one of the world’s most dignified spirits. There is something about swirling a cognac in a glass, gently warming it with the heat generated from your hands and then luxuriating in the warmth and full bodied richness of the spirit. While cognac is essentially a type of brandy it is exclusive to the region of Cognac in France. Not all brandies can be called a cognac as the process of making a fine VSOP cognac is guided strictly by the French law.

According to the Appellation d’origine controlee, which is the certification given by the French government to specific ‘French geographical indications’ such as for wine cheese and butters, for a brandy to bear the name Cognac it has to be distilled to meet specific legal requirements. The grape varietal used for such cognac production has to be the Ugni Blanch. Also the brandy has to go through a double distillation process using copper pot stills. Then comes the process of aging the wine. The wine has to be aged in classic French oak barrels for a minimum period of two years and then left to mature. These barrels must come from the region of Troncais or Limousin.

A number of cognacs are aged for a much longer period of time than the specified requirement. This is because cognacs are aged much in the same way as whisky and the longer it ages the better the product. The quality of the cognac is graded by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac). The main grades of cognac are VS, VSOP, XO and Napoleon. These grades are given according to the storage specification, aging and blending of the cognac.

 

A VSOP cognac or Very Special Old Pale cognac is a grade of cognac where the brandy has been aged for a minimum period of four years in a cask. However the average age of the cask is much older. The need for an aged cognac arose in 1817 in the British Royal House. The house was interested in a ‘cognac pale’ which was primarily a blend that was not sweetened artificially by adding either caramel or sugar. It was then found that as the cognac interacted with the wood of the oak barrel and the air inside it the cognac achieved it full bodied warm and slightly sweet flavor.

A VSOP cognac is also made from the two of the finest crus of the region. The main six growth areas or crus are Grand Champagne, Petit Champagne, Fins Bois, Bois Ordinaires, Bons Bois and Borderies. A fine VSOP cognac will have the crus taken from the Grand Champagne and the Petit champagne region with at least a 50% concentration from the Grand Champagne region. Once the cognac passes through these strict processes it is fit to be labeled and graded. While it is commonly believed that the longer a cognac has been aged the better it will taste, ultimately it is the taster whose palette will define what taste he actually likes. Tasting and liking a fine VSOP cognac is thus a very subjective and a very personal experience.

 

what is vintage cognac and what are its features

Vintage cognac unlike popular belief is not a French creation but is in fact British. The French have been fiercely protective of their cognac and have laws that govern cognac making strictly. Stringent rules must be followed when choosing the grapes, distilling, aging and blending the brandy to give it the name of a cognac. In fact according to the French laws if a brandy is made using all the governing principles of a cognac but is made anywhere else other than in the native towns of Jarnac and Cognac then it cannot be termed as a cognac.
Vintage cognac is a relatively newer and a rather unexplored trend. Until 1989 the production of vintage cognac was not allowed by the French law. It is for this reason that this cognac was not available in the market for purchase until the nineties. So what is vintage cognac? Vintage cognac is essentially a blend of cognacs that have been distilled from the eau de vie of a single year.
It is not very difficult to identify a vintage cognac. While a cognac that has been matured in the cognac houses of France will not have a date mentioned on the bottle, a vintage cognac will.

A bottle of genuine vintage cognac has a date mentioned on the bottle which tells the date on which this cognac blend was bottled and the vintage of cognac it comes from. This becomes important as it is indicative of the length of time for which the cognac has matured. The significance of these dates lie in the fact that once bottled a cognac stops maturing and doesn’t become better in the bottle irrespective of the years it has been bottled.
There are primarily two types of vintage cognacs. These types are the Jarnac matured vintage cognac and early landed vintage cognac. The primary difference between the two vintages is the method used in aging these cognacs. The storage conditions, climates and the barrels used to age and mature the cognacs renders its unique taste. The cognacs from Jarnac are matured in drier cellars. It is because of this that the brandies produced from this region are darker because of the high oxidization rate and high water evaporation. It is because of these reasons that the alcohol content of the cognacs from this region is more. In order to lower the alcoholic strength of the cognac from the Jarnac region a little bit of water is added to the cask.
In contrast to the cognac from Jarnac, early landed vintage cognac is aged in England. The place where most of this early landed cognac is aged is Bristol. This early landed vintage cognac is made from the brandy that is sent to Bristol in a cask a year or two after the vintage distillation. Once the brandy reaches its destination in England it is left to age in the English cellars which are very damp. There is no requirement of adding additional water to the casks of these cognacs since a damp cellar makes sure that water evaporation is much slower. The content of alcohol thus tends to fall naturally because of the humid conditions of the cellar.

What makes richard hennessy cognac a drink coveted amongst cognac connoisseurs

The Richard Hennessy Cognac stands at the top end of the fine Hennessy range. This cognac is named after Richard Hennessy who was the founder of Hennessy distilleries. The Hennessy distillery was established in 1765 by this Irishman and since then has gone on to produce some of the finest cognac selections. The Richard Hennessy Cognac was created by Richard Hennessy himself and thus the foundation of a great cognac house was laid.

The Richard Hennessy cognac is the color of a rich mahogany vibrant in its appearance. It has a complex yet rich palate and achieves a balance between the depth of the wine and the sweet notes of vanilla, raisins, honey and dried flowers. The finish of the drink leaves to the taster the semi sweet flavor of cherries and a deliberating long after taste. This balanced and complex drink releases its bouquet of aromas slowly in the tasters mouth in a succession revealing an extraordinary fine texture and aroma.

Some of the best eau de vie collected from the most coveted vine growing regions goes into the making of the fine Richard Hennessey cognac. This eau de vie is aged for nearly a hundred years to make the excellent cognac in the Hennessy cellar. Each of the eau de vies that go into the making of the Richard Hennessy cognac are selected carefully each for its characteristic properties. Some of the eau de vie used to make this cognac also date back to the early 19th century and are also extremely rare.

The eau de vie used in making a Richard Hennessy cognac is a blend of the Grand Siècle. The Grand Siècle is the epitome of blending complementing wines from the best growths from the Laurent Perriers and the best vintage years. Twelve prestigious wine growing villages supply the grapes that go into the making of the Grand Siècle. It was the era of Louis XIV that came to be known as the Grand Siècle as this era laid the foundation of France’s artistic heritage under the kings patronage. The eau de vie that makes Richard Hennessy cognac are selected carefully by the Hennessy house’s master blenders to present the regal drink. Seven generations of master blenders from the same family blend the Richard Hennessy cognac.

The Richard Hennessy cognac needs to be savored and not drunk. To truly savor its exceptional taste a crystal tulip taster glass or a smaller snifter should be used. These glasses allow the aromas of the cognac to be released gradually. Ideally when you want to appreciate a Richard Hennessy cognac you should first cradle the glass in your palm and swirl the drink so that it begins to release its fine aromas. Once that is done you need to inhale deeply and take a sip to enjoy the full bodied drink.

It is indeed a privilege to taste the Richard Hennessy cognac. A price has been put on this cognac perhaps for commerce alone as one cannot put a price on a spirit that has been aged over generations finally revealing its mature full bodied nature to the taster alone.

What makes remy martin cognacs a connoisseurs treasure

Remy Martin Cognacs have been a hallmark in the fine art of cognac making. It was in 1724 that Remy Martin a young winegrower established his company in the Cognac region in France. For over 280 years Remy Martin has been making some of the finest cognac that can be found across the world. The years 1830 to 1874 saw the creation of some of the finest cognacs from the House of Remy. In 1830 the Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac was created. Subsequently in 1848 the Remy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac was created.

The Remy Martin Cognac brand saw further strengthening of its brand value when in 1870 the Centaur symbol was introduced to represent Remy Martin. This symbol was introduced by Paul-Emile Remy Martin and was his zodiac sign. This sign was representative of the alliance between man and nature and finally became synonymous with the Remy Martin Cognacs.

The years 1898 and 1927 were significant to the House of Remy Martin. It was in 1898 that finally after many years of aging the Coupe Fine Champagne was released by Remy Martin. This cognac had the ‘greatest aromatic breadth’ and was released by Paul Emile Remy Martin himself. In the year 1927 the Remy Martin Fine Champagne VSOP was released. This cognac received a resounding success because of its impeccable taste and superior quality. Shortly after in 1937, Remy Martin became the official supplier to the Imperial and Royal courts and thus began the rise of a world cognac brand.

Remy Martin has a long drawn and lengthy process of making their fine cognac. The House of Remy Martin chooses its grapes from the two best crus or growth areas in France. These areas are that of Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne. The produce from this area is so coveted because of its unique chalk flecked soil. The porous soil also makes sure that the vines receive a steady water supply and the gravely exterior of the soil reflects the sunlight to the grapes helping them mature perfectly. It is because of this that the average ground rent in this area is higher by at least 20% than in the entire Cognac region.

The unique Remy Martin cognac blend is achieved by masterfully blending the eau de vie from the Grand Champagne and the Petit Champagne region with almost 50% of the total coming from the Grand Champagne region. The quality of the cognac is maintained because of a pact between Remy Martin and the winegrowers and distillers of these two regions called Alliance Fine Champagne. With the help of this alliance Remy Martin makes sure that it gets the best superior quality grapes for its cognac.

Once the eau de vie has been collected the Remy Martin cognac making process is on the roll. The wine is then distilled and given to age in French Limousin oak barrels. These barrels lend their unique flavor to the cognac. Since the excellent quality of grapes used for making the cognac have a great aging capacity, Remy Martin ages the eau de vie for much longer than the required time to get the deep aromatic breadth that their cognac is known for.

What goes into giving remy cognacs their signature flavor

Three generations of cognac making has gone into the creating the Remy cognac. Founded by Remy Martin in 1724 the cognac made by this cognac maker grew to legendary heights when in 1738 he was granted rights to plant new vines by Louis XV himself despite there being a ban implemented on the planting of new vines in 1831. As the House of Remy continued in the pursuit of making fine cognac, they also started exploring the international market to retail their fine range of cognac. Soon Remy cognacs were established as a world brand by becoming the official supplier to the Imperial and Royal courts.

The secret behind Remy cognacs is the soil from which it comes. Remy cognacs use grapes that are grown only in the Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne region in central France. These two areas are the most sought after growth areas of the total six crus or growth areas. The Grand Champagne and the Petit Champagne region have a unique soil that is chalk flecked. This soil reflects the light perfectly and helps in ripening the grapes to perfection. So much in demand are the grapes from this region that the ground rents are at least 20% higher here than anywhere else in the Cognac region. Not only are the blends of Remy cognacs produced from the Grand Champagne and the Petit Champagne region but almost 50% of the blend is made from the eau de vie collected from the Grand Champagne region exclusively.

The eau de vie collected from the Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne region is so much in demand because of its spectacular aging ability. It is only 17% of the cognac that is made and shipped from this region which is considered in the fine cognac bracket. Out of this 17% of fine cognac, 80% is produced by Remy Martin alone.

For 280 years Remy Cognacs have been the stalwarts in cognac making. They follow the traditional process of distilling the cognac in small copper stills which are called alambics. This process ensures that the already complex cognac gets a better deeper flavor and greater length. The eau de vie, which is the colorless liquid produced during double distillation and fermentation, at Remy is extremely aromatic and delicate. This is because of extended and traditional distillation process. Also Remy Martin and the wine growers of the Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne have a unique partnership since 1965 called the Alliance Fine Champagne which ensures the most rigorous eau de vie selection process.

Finally it is the cellar masters who give Remy cognac its unique intensity and aroma. Remy Martin gives immense importance to its cellar masters as they recognize that it is the cellar masters who give them the end product that remains true to the standards set by Remy Martin Fine Cognacs. It is interesting to note that in the last hundred years Remy Martin has had only four cellar masters. Remy cognacs have a unique aromatic intensity that comes from finding the perfect balance between the wide range of aromas and texture of grapes that they play with. These aroma releases powerful sensations which make a Remy cognac a whole lot more intense and precise and gives it its mellow length.

What makes pierre ferrand cognac incomparable to others

Pierre Ferrand cognacs are some of the best cognacs in the world. The house of Pierre Ferrand aims to make the best cognac for which they have their own vineyards and a unique state of the art distillation and aging process. This house believes that the art of making fine cognac is actually a lot more than choosing the right grapes and having the right distillation process. They also understand that aging the cognac in casks slowly over a period of time is only one of the essentials that go into the making of a fabulous cognac. The House of Pierre Ferrand places a great emphasis on the precise art of blending.

Pierre Ferrand cognacs are so different and unique in their taste as the cognac producers know the importance of blending that goes into making this fine cognac. It is five generations of cellar masters who have perfected the art of blending a cognac to the desired perfection and then carefully passed it on to the generations ahead. It is at the Logis d’Angeac that these cellar masters have studied and practiced the art of blending the right spirits with one another. Intuition and talent of understanding the spirits let these masters create incomparable cognac.

Pierre Ferrand cognacs have their distinctive taste because of the best varital of grapes used in its manufacture. Their vineyards are located in the Angeac terrior which is in the heart of the Grand Champagne region. Grand Champagne is the premier growth area and the vines from this region are called the ‘Premier Cru de Cognac’. The chalky soil of the Angeac area gives the grapes the required acidity which makes excellent cognacs.

Pierre Ferrand cognacs also owe their unique taste to their art of maturing the wine. The cognac makers at Pierre Ferrand understand that maturing a cognac requires a lot of time and a great deal of patience. Once the eau de vie is collected under the careful guidance of the experienced cellar master after being distilled slowly they are transferred to individual small oak barrels. These barrels are then transferred to the cellars where they are left to mature. Pierre Ferrand has seven different aging cellars out of which some are dry cellars and some are humid. These cellars have thick limestone walls that keep them cool. The cellars having earthen floors are the humid cellars and the ones having cemented floors are the dry cellars. This approach to cognac making ensures that the humidity and coolness of the cellar are maintained constantly to age the cognac perfectly.

During the aging of Pierre Ferrand cognacs it is also made sure that the cognacs spend time in different types of casks. These casks are of different ages and have been toasted to different levels. This process makes sure that while the cognac absorbs the best flavors from each cask there is no undue bitterness that can be caused by too much oak or tannis. Each of these casks lends their specific properties to the cognac and help contribute immensely in the important exchange that happens between the cognac, the wood of the cask and the air. The final product that is achieved after this long process is nothing short of spectacular.

Napoleon cognac – his love for fine cognac

One would wonder what is Napoleon Cognac is. The answer being it reveals the age of the Cognac. The facts of the evolution of Napoleon cognac are a bit hazy but what is believed as true is as follows:

Napoleon was very fond of Cognac. In those days, cognac was white and absolutely clear – more like spirit – harsh to drink but yet it was Napoleon’s favorite drink. It so happened that He had to leave for Russia as he wanted conquer this country. Much to his dismay Napoleon realized that there was no way he could carry his stock of Cognac with him. He entrusted his whole store of barrels to his good friends and gave them strict instructions not to disturb his barrels.

When he returned after about Six years he found that his friends had left his cognac safe and sound untouched and undisturbed. In fact he found that since the Cognac in the barrels had aged and matured by Six and a half years it had become tastier. To his delight and surprise it had adapted the color and flavor. It had also mellowed in taste as it had taken over the characteristics of the wood. Napoleon ranked it as the best beverage in the world.

The name cognac comes from the region of France. For Cognac to be called so, it should be from the region of France. If not it can be called Brandy. This means that the wood used to make its barrels must come from the neighboring forests and not from outside of France. Troncais oak wood helps the drink to age faster and also leaves its flavors quickly on the drink but the quality of the finished product may not be as desirable.

When cognac matures very slowly and steadily, it surpasses the quality of any other cognac. For this process, Limousine oak is used. Famous producers like Single Vineyard depend exclusively on Limousine oak.

Cognac, which has aged in Oak barrels for more than Six and a half years, then its manufacturers do not have to go through the formalities of VS-VSOP-Napoleon-XO. On the contrary, he has the freedom and authority to Christine his product with whatever name he fancies. Martha Cognacs are the best examples.

Made in France Cognac, is a fines grape brandy and the best one in the world. It is manufactured in places of Western France. This product is distilled twice from fermented grape juice and matured in barrels made of oak wood.

The French do not allow you to put the Cognac’s age on the bottle. This can be done only if it is a “declared vintage” – which is not an easy thing to do – rather very complicating. This means the “Tasting Age” is announced as16 years by local officers when the tastes the Cognac – This would also suppose that it could from a vintage harvested 15 years ago.

This indicates that if someone claims possessing a 25-year old Cognac it does not talk about its real age when it was blended and filled into that bottle. The Napoleon Cognac could be any time between 25 to 70 years old and has Age at Tasting of about 25 years. The advantage of buying these bottles from Frances that 1 bottle FREE on buying 5 bottles.

Meukow – a family owned affair.

Meukow is a drink of the privileged. The distillery for this product is run by a family and hence Cognac Meukow is a modern family business. It is one of those famous cognac houses holding high stakes on the family business. In order to survive the stiff competition, the family came up with a brave wave of creating – Compagnie de
Guyenne (CDG). This happened in 1969. The idea was to have it as an umbrella company and Meukow is still a part of and it comprises of many small cognac houses which are in association with Meukow,

In 1862 Karl and August Meukow travelled to Charente in times of Russian Tsar. The purpose of this trip was to find Cognac from this region. It so happened, that in that particular year they established themselves there by founding the cognac house Meukow – and so there was no reason for them to return to Russia. Ever since, now meukow’s history is a strong family support which is successfully running the family business

The Matha distillery is located at Charente Maritime – a historical estate in Brugerolle. The CEO of this company is Philippe Coste and Claude Brugerolle, head of their sales department, assists him. The Black Panther which appears on the product’s bottle is their famous mascot, designed by Philippe’s dad – Michel Coste, in 1995. Other products like Armagnac, Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Rum, Whisky etc. are also covered by their staff which is about 82 people, who make an average turnover of 35 million – 50% of this being cognac.

The Meukow distillery represents the most technologically advanced products of cognac. This distillery in Matha is recently undergone renovation recently and has been raised to the most modern standards. The modernization plan had cost them approx 1.4million Euros. This includes the cost of the most awaited robot for the crating system.

They now have a spacious and absolutely new reception dock, which is capable of housing 18,000 hectoliters along with a newly constructed place to take care of the delivery as well as pick-up of their products. Close to this is their old bottling unit, which was fully restored in the year 2001. Their Six lines of production churn out roughly 13 million bottles in 2009. Currently, Meukow only lacks an automatic system to organize and move the crates around.

Talking of its History, comparatively, it has a very young history. It was christened under its present name in 1947 and holds a very important position in the world market even today. Initially,in 1847, Meukow’s site was a part of Brugerolle Cognac and in

1987 it became a part of CDG. Andre Brugerolle the CEO was an important politician and also a Mayor of Matha – 1958 to 1978. Having started from humble beginnings as a family, they had a sentimental attitude towards their work place. Instead of stocking their spirits in a high tech designed site of Cognac, they chose to use the Brugerolle site – as Phillippe Coste felt their soul was in Brugerolle.

Respecting their traditional and family attributes, they have also been very supportive locally by restoring in their own town, the old clock tower and also the family chapel. It would be the endeavor of the family to maintain the values of the generation and never let go off Cognac from the hands of their family. Symbolically, the next cognac after Meukow would be named “Esprit de Famille”.

Walk into the world of rich warm tasted with hine cognac

Connoisseurs of fine cognac have always been admirers of Hine cognac. Founded by Thomas Hine, Hine cognac has been in the business of cognac for six generations. Thomas Hine had humble beginnings and came from Dorset in England. He left England and travelled to France to find his fortune in 1775. Following an arrest during the French Revolution, Thomas Hines destiny took him to Jarnac which is the heart of the Cognac vineyards. It is here that he founded Hine Cognac in 1763.

A lot of people want to know the difference between Cognac and Brandy. While all cognac is brandy all brandy cannot be termed as cognac. This is because fine cognac can only be created in Charente region located in South Western France. Cognac can only be made in this region only in a specific environment. Anywhere else, brandy producers can use the same methods of distilling wine and even use the same grapes as used in Cognac and age it in the same oak barrels but the resultant brandy will never taste the same as a cognac.

Hine cognac prides itself on its fine taste and aroma. Aged in fine French oak barrels sipping on Hine cognac is like travelling through the fine Grand Champagne vineyards and discovering the warmth and fruitiness of the region. These fine cognacs have different and distinctive flavors. The spicy notes speak of aromatic warm hints of pepper and spices. The Oriental notes in the cognac are rich in their tones combining opulence, warmth, exoticism and sensuality. The floral notes in their cognac bring to the taster a fine abundance of floral perfumes while the fruity notes tease the palette with hints of peaches, tropical fruits and luscious plums.

The sensory journey of Hine cognacs changes from one product to the other. The Hine cognac range is a consistent and fine blend of cognacs which have been aged for at least four years or more. Using the finest grapes from the Grand Champagne region and combining them with grapes from other regions such as Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Borderies these cognac blends have different aging timelines. Some of the youngest blends are aged for a minimum time of ten years and are perfect accompaniments to a classic hand rolled cigar.

Amongst the most coveted of all Hine Cognac stands the Family Reserve. This blend was made specifically for a discerning New Yorker in 1936. The Family Reserve collection is aged for a minimum period of fifty years or more and is the finest blend of old Grand Champagne cognacs. Released in limited editions this blend is a treat and desire of the true cognac connoisseur.

Hine Cognacs accompany a fine cigar in an excellent manner. Bernard Hine, one of the world’s most accomplished cognac blenders belonging to the House of Hine successfully pairs off Hine cognacs with its suitable cigars. Not only that, he also recommends aptly the time to smoke the cigar and drink the cognac to get the right experience. Hine cognacs make cognac drinking an experience to be reveled in. To revel in this experience open a bottle of Hine’s finest and get drawn into warm and mellow notes.

What makes a good french cognac

French Cognac, it can be safely said, is one of the most famous liquors in the world coming second only to its cousin, the champagne. While cognac is a variety of brandy it has to be noted that all brandy cannot be termed as French cognac. Cognac making has a specific process that has been endorsed by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac).

While French cognac cannot be replicated and the drink earns its name from the place, there are three places that cognac can be made namely, Cognac in France, Armagnac in France and Jerez in Spain. With the Spanish claim the French cognac producers have worked harder to become the most renowned cognac producers in the world. The French have perfected the art of cognac making for over three centuries. It is these rules and instructions that cognac makers must follow to get the best French cognac fit for consumption of the kings. If the drink falls short of the cognac making instructions, it merely remains a brandy.

One of the things that is characteristic of French cognac is the variety of grapes used to make the drink. Until the 1870’s the Folle Blanche variety of grapes was used to make cognac. However when the Phylloxera crisis affected Europe, the Folle Blanche variety were replaced with Ugni Blanc. Till this day Ugni Blanc stays as the principal variant of cognac comprising almost 95% of the blend. The remaining 5% can be made up of Colombard or Folle Blanche. However, some cognac producers are trying to go back to the traditional variant of grapes the Folle Blanche to make the finest French cognac.

Much of the flavor of French cognac is achieved by its distillation and aging process. This cognac needs to be distilled twice and uses only copper distillers. ‘Brouillis’ is the first step of distillation and the second step is the ‘repass’. This double distillation process ensures that a pure eaux-de-vie with an exact 72% alcohol purity is achieved and ensures that the spirit is completely colorless when it is put in the aging barrels.

French cognac also has to be aged for a specific period of time to earn its name rightfully. According to the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac), the cognac must be aged for a minimum of two years. It is during this time of aging that the barrels are rotated according to the cask age and season. As the cognac ages it draws the flavors of the French oak barrels and mixes it with the flavor and body of the spirit. This aging process also helps in making the cognac mellow and defines its specific characteristic.

As the French cognacs age more the grade of the cognac changes. A cognac that has matured for a period of two years gets a VS (Very Special) grade. A cognac aged for an average age of four years earns the VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) grade. The XO grade is the highest grade of French cognacs and is given to cognacs that have matured for at least six years in a French oak barrel.

Liking a good French cognac is subjective as it essentially depends on an individual palette. However, you can be certain that the older the cognac the more money you are likely to spend on it.