The 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
The Ugni Blanc,
Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes are the favored basis for this
How cognac is made
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
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.
Courvoisier cellars are available for tours in the heart of Cognac country in southwestern France.
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:
Destination Cognac - A history of the region and of Cognac,
an explanation of the elaboration process, some authentic
and lots more helpful essentials if you're making Cognac a trravel destination.
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
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.