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cognac

coñac (ES)
conhaque (PO)

The most famous brandy the world is after the city of the same name in the department Charente immediately north Bordeaux named in southwestern France near the Atlantic coast. When the Roman general Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) conquered Gaul, his legionnaires supposedly brought the Trebbiano vine with them from their homeland, which later became the main grape variety for the cognac. According to legend, the name of the Cognac region goes back to the Roman general Comnus. That came in the 12th century Spriten to preserve a wine by adding wine spirit. It was also found that the wine from the cognac area was particularly suitable for the distillation. Around the year 1530 the art of distillation introduced in this area, they called the wine distillates "Brandewijn", from which the English term brandy was derived. At that time it was common to produce distillates by firing once, as is still the case with Armagnac the case is.

Cognac - vineyards in the Charente department with Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Toscano)

The invention of cognac by distilling twice is attributed to the Chevalier de la Croix Maron, Seigneur de Segonzac towards the end of the 16th century. There is a beautiful legend about this that is still told today. The deeply religious knight is said to have dreamed that the devil wanted to steal his soul by burning it out in a cauldron. Through his unshakable faith, he survived the ordeal unscathed. And a second attempt by the devil to burn was unsuccessful, so the knight had the idea of winning the soul of the brandy with a second distillation. The new drink quickly prevailed, the Dutch Augustin Godet was the first to receive state approval to export the cognac. A certain jean Martell settled in cognac in 1715 and produced brandy, followed by Richard Hennessy and others whose names are still on the market today and are among the most renowned brands.

The came around 1870 phylloxera in this area and also destroyed many vineyards in the Charente, the current vineyard area with 75,000 hectares is only a third of that time. The basis for 90% of cognac production is mainly Saint-Émilion / Ugni Blanc ( Trebbiano Toscano ), such as Colombard and to a lesser extent Folle Blanche, In 2005 there was also a new breed Folignan approved with a maximum of 10% of the vineyard area per holding. As early as 1860, the French geologist Henri Coquand (1813-1881) and a professional spirits inspector were commissioned to classify the region in terms of quality. But it was not until 1909 that the limits and the production regulations were set. Brandy continued to be called cognac outside of France, Hugo Asbach (1868-1935) had marketed his product as a cognac brandy from 1896. In order to protect their brandy from the German competition, the French enforced in the Versailles Treaty that from 1920 only brandy from the area of cognac may be called that. This is one of the few provisions of the Versailles Treaty that are still valid today. Incidentally, on December 18, 2009, Cognac was officially recognized in China as the first foreign geographical indication.

region of origin

The cognac area is located in southwestern France about 100 kilometers north of Bordeaux. It covers the entire Charente-Maritime department, a large part of the Charente department, two enclaves in the Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres departments, as well as smaller islands off the Atlantic coast. The "Région délimitée" was divided into six zones, which are grouped in concentric circles around the city of Cognac. The best products that are allowed to use this name come from the Grande Champagne or Grande Fine Champagne area (but has nothing to do with Champagne). Around 15% of the production comes from here. The soil here is characterized by a high chalk content, which decreases significantly in the no less well classified areas. The others in the quality order are Petite Champagne (20%), Les Borderies (5%), Fins Bois (40%), Bons Bois (17%) and Bois Ordinaires (3%). Maximum yields (102 hl / ha), grape varieties, distillation type and storage methods were also defined by law. Cognac can only be called a product if the grapes come from this area, were distilled here and ripened here. Incidentally, in the cognac area, the production of marc fires forbidden.

production

The fermentation takes about ten to 21 days. After two to three weeks of storage, the first firing takes place. The fractional process is used, in contrast to the Armagnac is burned twice in a row (Charentais Pot Still). The wine has not been clarified, which means that the yeast is also distilled. After the first distillation The result is a distillate (Brouillis) with 25 to 30% vol, after the second firing a product called Bonne Chauffée (good heat) with a maximum alcohol content of 72% vol. The still clear Cognac is in Oak barrels stored mainly from Tronçais with a volume of 340 liters. During storage, the alcohol content gradually decreases and the cognac gets its typical golden brown color.

After a few years, the distillate is transferred to larger 540 liter barrels and continues to mature. In order to improve the quality, mostly cognacs of different ages are blended from different zones. However, there are also products made from a vintage, the production of which is particularly controlled (see under Vintage Cognac and Early Landed Cognac ). The final product with around 40% is produced by dilution immediately before bottling weakness (distilled water with some alcohol). With a few exceptions (unlike the Armagnac) it is forbidden to indicate the age of the cognac.

Cognac - barrels and glasses

Up to 2% cane sugar and caramelized Sugar can be added. The age is indicated by legally protected designations, whereby this refers to the maturation period in the barrels (after bottling, a brandy no longer matures, this time does not count). Almost every renowned cognac producer has a special room for this, the so-called "Paradis". The loss due to evaporation is up to 5% per year, this is the “Part des Anges” (angel's share), which must be replaced by “Réserve des Anges” (RDA). The manufacturing and aging or strictly prescribed maturity is determined by the industry association BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) closely monitored.

Age groups & designations

The age of the cognac determines the youngest distillate it contains. Cognac may only be bottled and sold from at least two years of barrel storage (Compte 02 = account 02). Each distillate is initially declared with “Compte 00” (account 00). The first cut-off date is April 1, a cognac with this name is at least one day to a maximum of three and a half months old (matured in a barrel). On April 1 of the following year, these distillates have at least one year of barrel storage and are given the name "Compte 01". This continues until "Compte 06" (six years), then the BNIC's control ends. Different in the individual cognac houses, the cognacs mature up to 20 years and longer. Cognacs in the higher categories from account 7 are generally much older than the minimum requirements. A cognac called Paradis, Grande Reserve or Family Reserve can be up to 100 years old. A large number of sometimes confusing fantasy names are then on the computer / account label to find. The exact age cannot be derived from this:

  • Compte 2 : three stars (previously up to 7 stars were used), Authentic, De Luxe, Elegance, Grand Choix (large selection), Monopole, Selection, VS (Very Special or Very Superior)
  • Compte 3 : Crest (summit or top product), Cuvée Speciale, Fine, Grande Selection, Privilege, Qualité Speciale, Superieur, Très Bonne (very good)
  • Compte 4 : Premiere Croix, Rare (rare), Reserve, Vieux, VO (Very Old), VSOP (Very Special Old Pale or Very Superior Old Product), VVS (Very Very Special or Very Very Superior)
  • Compte 5 : Cuvée Reserve, Grande Fine, Grande Reserve, Reserve de la Maison, Reserve Particuliere, VVSOP (Very Very Special Old Pale or Very Very Superior Old Pale)
  • Compte 6 : Age Inconnu (age unknown), Extra, Family Reserve, Grande Reserve, Hors d'Age (exceptional age), Imperial, Napoleon (see the background of the name there), Paradis, Très Rare (very rare), Très Vieux, XO (Extra Old), Vieille Reserve, VXO (Very Extra Old)

producers

A cognac (brandy) is usually made from the typical Cognacglas drunk with a bulbous body. To the largest and most important cognac houses, some of them too Armagnac and champagne produce count among other things González Byass (Sherry house) Camus. Courvoisier. Delamain. Desmaurin. Godet Frères. Hennessy, Thomas Hine. Marnier Lapostolle (Marnier) Martell and Rémy Martin ( Rémy Cointreau ). But not all grapes from the Cognac region become brandy. Part of the harvest is grown in the Charente department Vin de pays processed. The classified as AOC Pineau des Charentes is a so-called strong alcohol Vin de liqueur, The "Esprit de Cognac" is a high-quality, light cognac that is used in the Dosage of a champagne is used as part of the "Liqueur d'Expédition", since it can be used to dissolve the sugar in a tasteless manner.

Additional information

Complete lists of the numerous vinification measures and cellar techniques, as well as the various types of wine, sparkling wine and distillate regulated by wine law are included under the keyword winemaking . There is extensive wine law information under the keyword wine law,

Image Charente: TobiToaster - self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

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