As you may have noticed from previous articles, I often associate and select my alcoholic beverages based on weather or ambient temperature. Winter and cold rainy days are an excellent setting for Cognac/Brandy and other aged “brown” spirits. Cognac is basically a type of brandy which is produced in the Cognac region of France.
Similar to the laws applied on Champagne, Cognac is protected by origin appellation laws, which means that only brandy produced in Cognac and from certain grapes in a specific way may be labeled as Cognac. According to these laws, authentic Cognac must contain: Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche or Colombard grapes (while other grapes may be added). These grapes are pressed and then fermented yielding a very dry, somewhat bland white vino which is then subjected to a double distillation process. The result is a “raw” Cognac which is then set to age in various types of barriques for varying time periods before being bottled.
While there are some 190 cognac producers, a large percentage of Cognac production is dominated by four companies, namely: Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Remy Martin. Other brands include: Bache-Gabrielsen/Dupuy, Braastad, Camus, Delamain, Frapin, Gaston de Casteljac, Hine, Marcel Ragnaud, Moyet, Otard among others.
One thing that many find confusing an unclear with Cognac is the different categories. In the past, this was even more complicated but now it seems that most Cognacs are divided into three main categories:
V.S. - Very Special, refers to a blend in which the youngest Cognac/brandy has been aged in oak for a minimum of two years.
V.S.O.P. - Very Special Old Pale refers to a blend in which the youngest Cognac/brandy is stored for at least four years in oak, but the average aging period is higher.
X.O. - Extra Old refers to a blend in which the youngest Cognac/brandy is stored for at least six years in oak barrels but on average, it is aged for a time period of 20 years and more.
One may wonder why the names of the categories are in English and not French as seen in rating of vineyards or other categories associated with wine production. As indicated in various articles and websites this is due to the fact that for many years the British market was the largest consumer of Cognac and for many years and these distilled spirits often passed through the British Empire’s trading posts en route to their final destination.
Since Cognac is made from grapes, unlike scotch, burbon, tequila and other spirits, this can be an issue for observers of Kashrut. Many Rabbis have agreed that scotch can be consumed even if it does not bare a kosher mark. I recently had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hervé Bache- Gabrielsen who’s family is the proud owner of the distillery behind the Dupuy Cognac brand. The Dupuy brand was established in 1852 and later sold to two Norwegian businessmen; Thomas Bache- Gabrielsen was one of them. The family has been involved in Cognac production for over 100 years and remains one of the few family owned and operated Cognac distilleries in the region. The Dupuy label is imported and distributed in Israel by Jasmine Spirits and the distillery also offers a line of Cognacs that is not only kosher but even kosher for passover. Enjoy!