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Cognac: The Production

Through the years, Cognac has gained different nicknames, Water of Life, The Greatest Brandy of them all, and The Mother of all Brandies. This well deserved reputation is based on the long history of Cognac’s recognized fine qualities.

It all started in the 16th century when a captain on a Dutch ship carrying Cognac wines, had the brilliant idea of distilling the wine. The second distillation was done to preserve the wine, but actually it made an even finer, elegant and pleasant product. In fact the name Brandy is derived from the Dutch word “Brandewijn” which means burnt wine.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and Brandy is produced all over the world. However, only brandies made in the Cognac region can be called “Cognac”.

The Cognac region stretches over two regions in western France, Charente-Maritime and Charente. Within this region there are six areas for producing Cognac, these regions include Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires.

The production of Cognac includes the same steps as the production of white wine. So it all starts with the white grapes, which are harvested in September. Once they arrive at the factory, the grapes are pressed by horizontal plates. Since the seeds contain a substance that may damage the cognac, they are gently removed. A ten day fermentation follows, which results in a highly acidic, low alcohol fruity white wine.

The white wine is then distilled in copper pot stills, which are onion shaped and contain a boiler. The white wine is heated in the pot still and the alcohol is delicately separated from other volatile components from the organic and the none-volatile components from the wine. After the first distillation, the wine is transformed in a milky liquid called “Brouillis”.

The Brouillis is then distilled for the second time. It is said that during the second distillation the head and tail of the Brouillis is cut to expose the heart, which is the crystal clear liquid Eau-de-Vie (water of life). The final product is poured into oak barrels and stored for ageing. The longer the cognac ages the more aromas and complexity it develops. The process of ageing Cognac is ten to twenty years, during which it will pass through three different oak barrels to achieve different characteristics.