Cognac, Sir?

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Cognac is a source of pride and a national treasure of France. Unique alcohols for elite noble drinks are aged in selected oak barrels and then carefully poured into expensive decanters and sold in limited quantities. Collectors from all over the world passionately hunt for rare specimens of cognac, despite the fabulous prices.

Reality and legends, the results of rigorous scientific research, and fantastic assumptions accompany cognac through its development – from birth to the present day. Unusual physical and chemical composition and special, incomparable, organoleptic properties – the subtlest aroma and unsurpassed rich taste – make cognac, in the words of Victor Hugo, “the drink of the Gods”.

History and Mystery

Cognac is a strong alcoholic drink of the amber hue, which was born in France.

Cognac is, of course, one of the most worthy, noble, and aristocratic alcoholic beverages around the world. And the unusually interesting history of the creation of cognac has been described more than one million times. But! We want to tell the story of the emergence of this drink as accurately as possible, honestly, and most importantly, interesting.

Everyone has long known that cognac appeared (and in a completely random way!) In the small French town of Cognac. “Great town”, as it is called, with a population of only 20 thousand people, received the title of a province, and sometimes a department and a region, but this is absolutely wrong.

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In fact, Cognac has long been part of the New Aquitaine region and is located in a department called: Charentes.

Let’s move on to history. There are various legends about the appearance of cognac, in which there are knights, evil spirits, and similar tales. Of course, we will not delve into them, but we will mention a couple to cheer up.

The beginning of viticulture in the area of modern cognac production dates back to the last quarter of the 3rd century when the Roman emperor Probus allowed the Gauls to have vineyards and winemaking, which was previously common in only a few cities.

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In the 12th century, thanks to Guillaume X, Duke of Guyenne, and the Comte of Poitiers, an extensive vineyard was formed around La Rochelle, called the Poitou vineyard. In the next century, wines were produced from their grapes, supplied to countries located on the shores of the North Sea, and transported by Dutch and Scandinavian ships.

One of the boat stations, located in the basin of the Charente River, differed from the others in its ancient history (back in the 11th century, there were salt warehouses here) and the quality of the vineyards. It was called Cognac. In the second half of the 16th century, Dutch ships came here for the famous wines of Champagne and Borderies.

In the 16th century, local winegrowers began to produce so much wine that it became difficult to market it. The quality of the drink has dropped. Low alcohol and acidic drinks could not withstand the long sea transportation.

They deteriorated on the way and in the cellars of the wine merchants. In addition, transportation in barrels was time-consuming and economically unprofitable. Around 1630, the idea arose to use on a large scale the distillation process, known at that time to alchemists and pharmacists, who practiced it in small quantities mainly for obtaining alcohol for medicinal purposes.

By 1641, the French craftsmen from the Charente department invented a special distillation apparatus for producing cognac alcohol, which is the main raw material in the production of cognac. By distillation, a completely new drink began to be obtained from wine. It could be transported anywhere and did not deteriorate on the way.

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By the end of the 17th century, Dutch and English traders began to export an ordinary alcoholic drink without any additives, less voluminous and less expensive. This product, diluted with water, was called brandewijn.

There are at least two versions of the origin of cognac. According to another, in the first half of the 16th century, at the celebrations of the wedding of King Henry II of France with Catherine de Medici, the Italian ambassador, among other gifts, presented the young couple with a grape brandy.

There is also a more beautiful legend associated with Jacques de la Croix Maron. He was a nobleman and a knight and mainly engaged in fighting. And when the next war ended or he got bored, he returned home and was engaged in winemaking. Once, returning from another war, Jacques found out that his wife was cheating on him. Chevalier was an unrestrained man, and in a righteous fit of anger he knocked down both his lover and his traitorous wife. But it turned out that the whole horror had just begun. The widower’s nights were filled with nightmares in which his deceased wife and her lover appeared to him. And once the “roaring devil” himself came into his dream and said that he could save the Chevalier from remorse, but in return, he wants a soul. And when Jacques refused and sent him to hell, the devil threatened that on such a time he would take the soul himself, chopping off the chevalier’s head and legs and boiling his sinful body twice in boiling water

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Jacques de la Croix Maron Jacques “chopped off” the “head” and “tail” of the wine – he poured out the head and tail fractions of alcohol, leaving only the middle one. And he got what he considered the “soul” of wine – cognac alcohol. The one that modern craftsmen pour into oak barrels, where they are kept for years.

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There are at least two versions of the origin of cognac. According to another, in the first half of the 16th century, at the celebrations of the wedding of King Henry II of France with Catherine de Medici, the Italian ambassador, among other gifts, presented the young couple with a grape brandy.

There is also a more beautiful legend associated with Jacques de la Croix Maron. He was a nobleman and a knight and mainly engaged in fighting. And when the next war ended or he got bored, he returned home and was engaged in winemaking. Once, returning from another war, Jacques found out that his wife was cheating on him. Chevalier was an unrestrained man, and in a righteous fit of anger he knocked down both his lover and his traitorous wife. But it turned out that the whole horror had just begun. The widower’s nights were filled with nightmares in which his deceased wife and her lover appeared to him. And once the “roaring devil” himself came into his dream and said that he could save the Chevalier from remorse, but in return, he wants a soul. And when Jacques refused and sent him to hell, the devil threatened that on such a time he would take the soul himself, chopping off the chevalier’s head and legs and boiling his sinful body twice in boiling water

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The poor knight, not getting enough sleep due to nightmares, in an attempt to forget himself tried to go back to winemaking. The threat of the devil made him think that the “soul” of wine can also be tried to extract after the second “boil” (distillation).

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Jacques de la Croix Maron Jacques “chopped off” the “head” and “tail” of the wine – he poured out the head and tail fractions of alcohol, leaving only the middle one. And he got what he considered the “soul” of wine – cognac alcohol. The one that modern craftsmen pour into oak barrels, where they are kept for years.

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The Chevalier winemaker also poured his alcohol into barrels and went to the Abbey of Renorville. Either hoping to atone for sins, or wanting to be blessed with his drink, made according to the devil’s recipe. According to legend, in an attempt to understand whether this drink is devilish or divine, it took a whole barrel. The second father-abbot did not allow to open it but hid it in the cool basement of the abbey. And he seems to have forgotten about her. The barrel was opened only after a decade and a half, and the drink that ended up in it was truly divine. This is how the first real cognac appeared

In the 18th century, European countries either fought each other or signed peace agreements. And one such agreement at the end of the century was the Commercial Treaty between England and France. One of the important points was the paragraph on the reduction of customs rates for cognac – England wanted to consume a quality drink. The quantities in which she wished to do this were more than France could produce, but this did not bother the French winemakers. Having received an entire country as a market and anticipating large profits, they quickly improved the distillation cube, increasing productivity and distillation speed.

Then there was Napoleon, whose army made an excellent advertisement for brandy. When the Napoleonic wars ended, the whole world already knew and drank cognac. The French are so grateful to Napoleon to this day that one of the varieties of cognac is named after him.

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Then there was Napoleon, whose army made an excellent advertisement for brandy. When the Napoleonic wars ended, the whole world already knew and drank cognac. The French are so grateful to Napoleon to this day that one of the varieties of cognac is named after him

At the beginning of the 20th century, the French government announced that real cognac can only be produced in strictly defined areas of France. And since 1936, the whole world recognized this, and the cognac became a Name Controlled by Origin.

Types of Cognac

Why does cognac have so many different types and how did they come about at all? Let’s return a little to history.

So, imagine the 18th century. Dover, or, if you like, Marienburg. You are standing in the shop of a local merchant, the stench on the dock is insane – fish, horses, sweat: all the worst smells together. I want to escape from there as quickly as possible, and there is no time for a detailed examination of the goods and for tasting (although, the hospitable owner, seeing your lace collar and a couple of pistols sticking out from behind a sling with a sword, is ready to offer you to try a couple of options ).

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Well, so, you are standing in front of a slender row of bottles, over which the inscription “Eau-de-Vie” proudly flaunts. A price is drawn under each of these bottles. How to choose the best one? Watch carefully: prices go up as the drink darkens.

It is because of the difference in a shutter speed that the classification system was invented. So that, regardless of the color, and it is very variable since it depends on many factors (including the addition of caramel), you can immediately choose a drink that suits your occasion, mood, age, in the end, a drink.

Modern classification implies strict adherence to the rules, rules, and regulations established by French law, it regulates the time of collection and distillation, as well as production volumes and many other important things that you, my dear reader, do not need to know about – this is truly boring. It is important that the system works.

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We will immediately make a reservation that we will name only the most common designations for the age of cognac because even a young “VS” has about fifty synonyms that are allowed to be written on the label.

  1. Some decipher it as Very Superior. It is not right. The correct variant is Very Special. The minimum aging period for the youngest alcohol in a blend for such a cognac will be two years. It is important to understand here that, according to French law, the age of the cognac is determined by the youngest of the brothers presented. Even if ninety percent of the alcohol have been aged in the barrel for at least a hundred years (which, by the way, is technically almost impossible, or very expensive), and the remaining ten percent is only two years, by law it will be VS. Therefore, VS is a cognac with a minimum age of two years, and it does not matter if there are older alcohols in the blend.
  2. Very Special Old Pale. Indeed, VSOP is pale, like its predecessor, because for the minimum four years of age for this category, the cognac becomes exactly pale. Pale yellow, or, if you like, sunny golden. The color we are all used to is due to the addition of burnt sugar.
  3. Extra Old. Incredibly old. For those times when cognac was just gaining points in the European standings, 6 years was a lot. Nevertheless, the starting point goes exactly from six years – this is the minimum age for a cognac of the XO category.

It would seem that these are the main and only categories for the division of cognac. But, those who are interested in history or simply elite segments of cognac, sooner or later, and perhaps already know two more terms.

These are the terms Napoleon and Hors d’Age.

Napoleon is the aging period between VVSOP (Very Very Special Old Pale {minimum aging period of five years}) and XO. It’s just that in the late eighties / early nineties, a stream of fake Camus from Poland poured into the USSR. And on the bottles of Camus, the Emperor is traditionally depicted. Of course, there is a legend on this topic too. Allegedly, when the Corsican Cannibal was finally expelled from France (that is, after a Hundred Days), he was put on a corvette sailing in the right direction. Various supplies were loaded onto the corvette, including several barrels of cognac for officers. Napoleon, seeing the barrels, recognized Camus in them, praised them, saying that he drank it with pleasure. The author of these lines himself loves and reveres the Camus house, however, he has no doubts about who this legend was first voiced. Nevertheless, His Majesty the Emperor still flaunts on Camus’ labels, and the characteristic shape of the bottle is called Josephine. The trouble is that at that time there were no patent offices yet, and everyone liked the name “Napoleon” so much that everyone began to use it. Now, we repeat, this term denotes the age of cognac about five and a half years, or more.

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Hors d’Age. This term is translated as “without a year” or, “out of time.” This term denotes a drink that has deliberately gone beyond the scope of XO, or, more often, when it is not possible to establish the minimum age. More often you will find such a designation on the bottles of Armagnac, but it also occurs periodically on Cognac. The beauty is that Hors d’Age can be either a six-year-old child or a mature forty-year-old husband, but this is not reflected in the name in any way. However, the same thing happens with the rest of the categories

Hors d’Age. This term is translated as “without a year” or, “out of time.” This term denotes a drink that has deliberately gone beyond the scope of XO, or, more often, when it is not possible to establish the minimum age. More often you will find such a designation on the bottles of Armagnac, but it also occurs periodically on Cognac. The beauty is that Hors d’Age can be either a six-year-old child or a mature forty-year-old husband, but this is not reflected in the name in any way. However, the same thing happens with the rest of the categories

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To drink or not to drink?

We found out how the cognac appeared. Identified the types and what is the difference between them. We understood why cognac is valued. So let’s approach the most important question. How to drink cognac correctly?

We will not give you instructions, and we will not say that cognac can be drunk at a certain time for the stars to come together. It all depends on your preferences and environment. Note! The atmosphere for drinking cognac is very important.

It is better be evening, calm atmosphere, because cognac does not like a flurry of emotions and a degree of tension. Before drinking, let the bottle rest – you need to open it and leave it uncorked for 30 minutes, and after that pour it into glasses and taste it.

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The specificity of its use depends on which category the drink belongs to. There is a classic cognac gradation, based on the exposure time:

Ordinary – aged in oak barrels for three to five years.

Collectible – drinks aged for six years or more.

But we already know that.

7 tips on how to drink ordinary cognacs correctly

The main recommendations from the experts are as follows:

  1. Young cognac can be served both before the main meal and as a dessert;
  2. Starters come into play. In the beginning – hard cheese, olives, slices of smoked fish or jerky. Canapes with red caviar or bruschetta with red fish and cream cheese are good options;
  3. Grilled meat is suitable as the main dish in the framework of the cognac party – these should be low-fat varieties (beef, veal);
  4. Ice cream, sorbet, savory pastries or cakes are good as a dessert;
  5. Ideal combination with ordinary cognacs – chocolate and coffee;
  6. It is not recommended to drink cognac, but in between drinking you can drink a little juice or mineral water. Let it be white grape juice and still mineral water;
  7. There is also an “American fashion” for ordinary cognac when mixed with cola or tonic. If you like how the drink plays in this combination, then why not?

Note! Ordinary cognac is not bad when mixed in cocktails. Experts recommend using options with an aging of 3 – 4 years as a base for cognac cocktails, so that the taste of the main ingredient does not interrupt the edges of other components.

7 tips on how to drink collectible cognacs

We bring to your attention five basic tips from experts on how to drink collectible cognac correctly:

  1. Everything has its time. Collectible cognacs belong to the class of afternoon digestifs. According to French tradition, the best period to drink this drink is after a hearty lunch and a cup of strong espresso.
  2. Temperature plays a role. The optimal temperature regime for the drink should be from 19 to 24 degrees. Then all facets of taste and overflow of a subtle aroma will be revealed.

We bring to your attention five basic tips from experts on how to drink collectible cognac correctly:

  1. Everything has its time. Collectible cognacs belong to the class of afternoon digestifs. According to French tradition, the best period to drink this drink is after a hearty lunch and a cup of strong espresso.
  2. Temperature plays a role. The optimal temperature regime for the drink should be from 19 to 24 degrees. Then all facets of taste and overflow of a subtle aroma will be revealed.
  1. Choosing glasses. The optimal container for cognac is wide snifters glasses filled to one fourth.
  2. Handle the glass correctly. We wrap our hand around the bowl to convey the body temperature to the drink. Next, you need to “hear” the aroma, which is conventionally divided into three layers. The top one is about 10 centimeters above the glass, and notes of vanilla and chocolate can be felt in it. The next layer is located almost at the edge of the glass – here you can already feel the notes of berries, fruit overflows. And the third wave of aroma is already felt inside the glass, when the taster takes a sip. In the final, we get a complex bouquet, where there is a place for notes of flowers, spices, leather.
  1. The size of the throats matters. The first sip should be less than the next. You will feel pleasant warmth, delicate taste, several facets of the aroma at once. Experts recommend “pondering” this taste, holding it in your mouth for a while, merging with it.
  2. Collectible cognacs are not accepted to have a snack. A good cigar can accompany the drink.
  3. Ice should not be added to collection cognac.
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  1. Choosing glasses. The optimal container for cognac is wide snifters glasses filled to one fourth.
  2. Handle the glass correctly. We wrap our hand around the bowl to convey the body temperature to the drink. Next, you need to “hear” the aroma, which is conventionally divided into three layers. The top one is about 10 centimeters above the glass, and notes of vanilla and chocolate can be felt in it. The next layer is located almost at the edge of the glass – here you can already feel the notes of berries, fruit overflows. And the third wave of aroma is already felt inside the glass, when the taster takes a sip. In the final, we get a complex bouquet, where there is a place for notes of flowers, spices, leather.
  3. The size of the throats matters. The first sip should be less than the next. You will feel pleasant warmth, delicate taste, several facets of the aroma at once. Experts recommend “pondering” this taste, holding it in your mouth for a while, merging with it.
  4. Collectible cognacs are not accepted to have a snack. A good cigar can accompany the drink.
  5. Ice should not be added to collection cognac.

What the sniff

Every reader who has come to this point can consider himself an expert in the issue of cognac. Let’s talk more about glasses.

Of course, you want to keep such a drink in an aesthetically pleasing glass, and not in a disposable glass or mug. The best and most common style of brandy and cognac glasses are snifter glasses. The snifter glass, known for its large bowl, allows aromas and flavors to bloom and accumulate inside so that the drinker has more enjoyment.

The word “snifter” itself comes from the English – “to sniff”, and indeed – quite often in collections of table etiquette one can see the advice: “bring a glass to your nose and carefully inhale the aroma concentrated in the upper part of the vessel.”

The leg of the cognac and brandy glasses presented in our store is made of brass using the art vacuum casting technique. The top of a cognac glass is made of crystal. This designer set of glasses for cognac and brandy is a perfect gift for any occasion. Each cognac and brandy glass comes in a leather gift box. With such glasses, you will definitely be pleased to enjoy the taste of the wonderful “drink of the gods”.

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Art cast cognac glass - Bestwonderstore
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Art cast cognac glass - Bestwonderstore

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