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MAIN Arrow to Wine Directory Wine Arrow to  Wines of Europe Europe Arrow to  Wines of FranceFrance Arrow to Wines of the Cognac region of France Cognac

pouring cognac into a brandy snifterThe name Cognac is reserved for distilled white wines grown in a delimited area extending along the banks of the Charente all the way to the Atlantic coast.

The Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes are the favored basis for this "burnt wine."

How cognac is made

White wines from the Cognac region are treated very differently than the fermentation process in the rest of France. The grape juice is fermented and then subject to a process called elaboration. Two distillations, called chauffes, bring the liquid to the stage where it is ready to be aged.

Only the heart, a clear liquid averaging between 68 and 72% alcohol, is kept to be aged as Cognac. The distiller separates the heart from the heads and the tails through a process called cutting. The heads and the tails then get mixed with a new batch of wine or brouillis and are redistilled. The heart is aged in casks made of oak taken from the forests of Limousin or Troncais and then mixed by experts to eventually become the amber Cognac that has earned esteem throughout the world.

Popular cognacs

Unlike other brandy and liquors, Cognac is made by mixing different vintages to guarantee a consistent quality. Camus, Hennessy, Martell, Otard, Courvoisier, Prince Hubert de Polignac and Remy Martin are the most well known houses in the region, but there are many independent houses that make first rate Cognacs.

Once considered an "old man's drink", cognac has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late following its promotion within the rap community in the US when rap artist Busta Rhymes released his hit song, "Pass the Courvoisier" in 2001 ("Give me the Henny/ You can give me the Cris/ You can pass me the Rémy/ But pass the Courvoisier.")

The result was skyrocketing sales of the brand name brandy that in some parts of America continue unabated ...

More information about Cognac around the Web:

Cognac World
- A history of the region and of Cognac, an explanation of the elaboration process, some authentic Cognac recipes, crafts involved with creating the distilled wine and more. The site links to two stores where you can order a specially engraved bottle (Europe only) or shop in the Cognac store - the special is "Nyak Very Special Cognac is the Cognac preferred by des artists "rap" américains."

Le Cognac - Here's another excellent site which explains the VS, VSOP and Napoleon, or X.O classifications clearly as an answer to the Cognac quiz... All of the houses are listed and provides all of the information you could possibly need to know about the 800 brands of the 'burnt wines'. However, if you do have more questions, they invite you to email them for an answer...

Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac - The official group representing the vintners of the Cognac region has put together a site that presents their product to the world. The history of the region and the "burnt wine" are here as well as a very nicely illustrated description of the elaboration process and more...

Cognac Guide - This is a mini-encyclopedia of facts & information including average prices (in Euros), a guide to other online resources, suggested book reading, and downloadable tasting notes in an Excel spreadsheet.


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