Cognac is a distillate of wine which undergoes a long aging period in oak casks. Cognac is basically a brandy, obtained by distilling wines produced in a particular area of France which is located around the city having the same name of the renowned distillate. Cognac is a pretty town where the village environments, shaped by years, remind traditions as old as cognac, where the aroma of "part des anges" permeates the air and the memory of stories, now far away, come up freeing the mind from the frenetic rush towards time.
Production of Cognac
Cognac is distilled twice with the copper charentais alembic still. Copper fixes fatty acids which develop during the heating by direct flame, besides being an excellent heat conductor. The alembic is also composed by a boiler or cucurbita made of wrought copper and has an onion shape with a maximum capacity of 40 hl and is placed over a gas burner, and is surmounted by a spiral condenser, immersed in a refrigerating bath.
From the first distillation for 8-10 hours at 95-100 °C (95-100 °F) a liquid with only 24-30% in alcohol is obtained, which is called bruillis and is put back into the still.
From the bonne chauffe, or second fermentation, lasting about 12 hours, heads and tails are discarded, keeping only the heart.
The distillate is left to rest for a long time in wood. During the aging in cask, the brandy undergoes deep transformations, with which the acids present increase up to four times. Through wood the phenomena of evaporation take place and every year 2-4% of the distillate is dispersed in the environment.
The cellar or chai is important for cognac to evolve in cask, because in case the environment is dry, more water evaporates and the taste is dry and hard, whereas in case it is too humid, alcohol evaporates too much and the distillate becomes weak and weak.
From 1000 liters of wine-base it is possible to obtain about 100 liters of distillate. An important figure in the production of cognac is the maître de chai who judges the quality and the evolution of distillates and establishes the ideal moment for the assembling of dozens of brandies. The aging period can last up to 50 years.
The quality of a cognac is also determined by its aging which is not expressed in years but by means of predetermined abbreviations. The age of the youngest cognac used in the blend determines the appellation of aging. Moreover, as opposed to wine, the age of cognac is calculated according to the time spent in casks whereas the time spent in bottle does not influence the aging of brandy. The definitions used to indicate the age of cognac are set as follows:
If the youngest spirit used for blending is up to four and a half years old, the cognac is defined as VS (Very Superior) or Trois Etoiles (three stars)
In case the youngest brandy is aged from four and a half to six and a half years old, the cognac is defined as VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), VO (Very Old) or Réserve
In case the youngest brandy is older than six years and a half, the cognac is defined as Vieille Reserve (Old Reserve), Grande Réserve (Great Reserve), Royal, Vieux (Old), XO (Extra Old), Napoléon. Generally these are cognacs having exceptional qualities
The terms Hors d'Age and Paradis can be used in case the youngest brandy is older than six and a half years, however they are often used for cognacs having more than 50 years of age
In case at least 50% of the brandies used for blending come from the areas of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, the obtained cognac can boast the appellation of "Fine Champagne".
Francois Peyrot's Cognac alle pere williams is an aged Cognac liqueur from Maison Peyrot in the town of Cognac, France and flavored with Williams pear. The liqueur is made by assembling aged Cognac aged in white oak barrels for a minimum of two years with natural flavoring of Williams pears, grown in the Black Forest region and sugar syrup. It takes 14 kilos of Williams pears to produce a 70 cl Liqueur Poire au Cognac.