Definition - What does Cognac mean?

Cognac is a type of brandy that is produced in surrounding wine-growing regions of its namesake town of Cognac in Southwestern France. It typically contains 40 percent alcohol by volume and has a rich characteristic flavor, combining varying essences of nuts, fruit, caramel, honey, vanilla and other spices. To be labelled as Cognac, as per the Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC), a brandy must satisfy rigorous legal requirements. Cognacs mature with aging and are often aged considerably longer than legally required.

WineFrog explains Cognac

The process of producing cognac involves doubly distilling dry, acidic and thin white wines. Even though cognac is made from a strict list of grape varieties, the production process often uses Ugni blanc grapes, locally known as Saint-Emillion. Legal requirements for cognac designation also include practices like double distillation in copper pot stills and two years of aging in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais.

While ranking is supplier-specific, common cognac categories ranked by age and expense. Quality designations also include the following markers:

  • VS (very special or three stars)
  • VSOP (very superior old pale or Reserve)
  • XO (extra old)
  • Hors d’âge (beyond age).

There are also various cognac-based liquors, including: Grand Marnier, Dutch Brandy and Chambord Liqueur.

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