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Frequently Asked Questions About Cognac and Armagnac


In Armagnac, is one vintage better than another?


So many factors come into play during Armagnac production. So many moments when man's hand shapes the product: vinification, distillation, ageing, grape blending... While the quality of the harvest is a major influence on the future of a drinking wine, it is not the only consideration that determines the evolution and quality of an Armagnac, especially as the grapes are deliberately harvested before full maturity (in order to keep a certain acidity and low alcohol percentage in the wine).


Every producer undoubtedly has a favorite vintage in his range, though it won't necessarily be the same as his neighbor.


What do we call an Armagnac house?


The term "Armagnac house" is a generic term describing a trader or producer of Armagnac (wine grower).


A dealer buys wines for distillation and/or Armagnacs from producers or «bouilleurs de crus» (distillers). He continues to work on wine or distillation, if necessary, and Armagnacs' aging or blending work before marketing them.


Who made Cognac?


The Dutch, not the French, invented the Cognac we know. In the 17th century, Holland merchants brought French wine home for distillation and soon found that Cognac wine produced a smoother spirit than elsewhere. Eventually, the Cognaçais began distilling wine expressly


How long will Cognac last unopened?


Cognac's shelf-life is indefinite but if Cognac develops an off-odor, flavor, or appearance, it should be discarded for quality.

Information About Cognac and Armagnac


Cognac is a type of brandy named after the commune of Cognac in the French province of Charente-Maritime. Wine from the surrounding wine-growing region, in the departments of Charente and Maritime, is used to make this liqueur.


The Grapes and the Regions in Which They Grow


The area surrounding the commune of Cognac, France, is divided into six grape-growing regions, which are located within the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. Officially, the main grape varieties used in cognac production must be ugni blanc (which is equivalent to Italy's trebbiano grape), folle blanche, and colombard; however, other less common grape varieties, such as jurançon blanc, sémillon, and folignan, among others, are also used in small quantities in the production of the spirit.


The most expensive fruit comes from the Grande Champagne district in Charente and the Petite Champagne district, which straddles the borders of Charente and Charente-Maritime, respectively.


Cognac production is governed by the French appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) designation, with specific production methods and naming requirements that must be met in order to maintain AOC status. Ugni blanc, also known as Saint-Émilion in the region, is the most widely planted of the grapes on the list.


Two distillations in copper pot stills are required, as is an aging period of at least two years in French oak barrels from the Limousin or Tronçais regions of France. While Cognac matures in the same way that whiskies and wines do in barrels, the majority of Cognacs spend significantly more time "on the wood" than the statutory minimum amount of time.


How It Is Made


Grapes are fermented for five to seven days after harvesting and the resulting wine is typically between 8.5 percent and 9.5% alcohol by volume, depending on the variety of grape used. After that, it is distilled twice in copper pot stills, yielding a colorless alcohol known as eau-de-vie (French for "water of life" once more).


A single-barrel Cognac (often referred to as an eau-de-vie despite having been aged for at least two years) is then blended with other Cognacs of varying ages and qualities to produce the final product. The age statement on the bottle refers to the eau-de-vie that is the youngest in the blend, which will be discussed in greater detail in the following section.


The Age Scale


Cognacs can be divided into a few broad categories, which include: As of 2018, VS, which stands for very special, must be at least two years old; VSOP, which stands for very superior old pale, must be at least four years old; and XO, which stands for extra-old, must be at least ten years.


Please keep in mind that these age requirements apply to the youngest cognac that was used in the blend, not the oldest cognac. In the past, six years was considered the minimum age for an XO cognac; however, the term Napoléon is now used in reference to cognacs that are between six and ten years in age.


There are two additional classifications that are separate from these main categories and that cover cognacs that have been aged for a longer period of time than XO: Cognacs aged for 14 years or longer are designated as XXO (extra extra old), and Hors d'age is a term used colloquially to refer to ultra-high-quality cognacs that fall outside of the age scale entirely. However, the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) technically recognizes Hors d'age cognacs as being equal to the XO classification.


How to Drink It


Older cognacs should be enjoyed neat, with perhaps a drop or two of water to open them up, as a general rule of thumb. Earlier-aged cognacs are ideal for mixing and serve as the foundation for many classic cocktails, such as the Sidecar, Between the Sheets, and even the first Mint Julep.


While both the original French 75 and the Sazerac were made with cognac before the English influenced the former and Phylloxera sabotaged the latter's exportation, the American pivot to rye whiskey resulted in a classic homegrown spirit, rye whiskey, becoming popular.


Pouring a glass of Champagne with an ounce of Cognac in it (think of it as a minimalist's French 75) or a glass of ginger ale is another option if simplicity is more your style. This is often how you'll find the French sipping their preferred pour. Also, a simple highball of Cognac, a splash of soda water, with plenty of ice, can be quite enjoyable. For an aromatic boost, try adding a lemon wedge or even just a swath of lemon zest to the dish.


Best Cognac Brands



  • Camus

  • Courvoisier

  • Conjure

  • Delamain

  • Hardy

  • Hennessy

  • Hine

  • Landy

  • Louis Royer

  • Martell

  • Pierre Ferrand

  • Rémy Martin

  • Bache-Gabrielsen

  • Hine

  • D’Ussé


What is Armagnac?


Armagnac is a type of brandy that is produced in the Armagnac region of Gascony, in the southwest of France. It is distinguished by its distinctive flavor. When it comes to the production of cognac, column stills have traditionally been used rather than the pot stills that are used in the production of cognac, which is made exclusively from the grape ugni blanc.


It is distilled from wine, which is typically made from a blend of grapes including Baco 22A, Colombard, Folle blanche, and Ugni blanc. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before being made available for consumption. The Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO) and the Bureau National Interprofessionel de l'Armagnac (BNIA) are in charge of monitoring the production process (BNIA).


Armagnac was one of the first regions in France to begin distilling spirits but the overall volume of production is far smaller than that of cognac and, as a result, it is less well-known outside of the country's borders.


Furthermore, it is primarily produced and sold by small businesses, whereas cognac production is dominated by large corporations, particularly Courvoisier (owned by Beam Suntory), Hennessy (owned by LVMH), Martell (owned by Pernod Ricard), and Rémy Martin (owned by Rémy Cointreau).


The Difference Between Cognac & Armagnac


The Territories of Armagnac And Cognac


Armagnac and Cognac are AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) eaux-de-vie, which means that they can only be produced in the region in which they are named. The Cognac region is located further north (Charente, Charente-Maritime, and parts of the Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres) than the Charente-Maritime region, which is separated by 300 kilometers. The terroirs are distinguished by their soils and climate, which impart a distinct character to the eaux-de-vie produced in each region.


The soil of Cognac is predominantly limestone, whereas the soil of Armagnac is sandy, clayey-siliceous, and clayey-limestone in composition. It has a continental climate that is drier and sunnier in the summer and harsher in the winter than the Cognac region, which has a temperate oceanic climate that is drier and sunnier all year.


Because these eaux-de-vie bear the AOC designation, it means that they were produced in accordance with strict specifications, which ensured their provenance and authenticity.


A Comparison of Grape Varieties Between Armagnac And Cognac


Armagnac is a white wine from Gascony that has been distilled and heated in an Armagnac still before being aged in oak barrels for several months. Wine made from a variety of grape varieties (10 grape varieties fixed by the AOC) including Ugni Blanc (55%), Folle Blanche, Baco and Colombard are used to make this product. The Ugni Blanc is a white wine produced in the Cognac region. Following the ravages of phylloxera in the late nineteenth century, it became widely planted in the Armagnac region of France.


Cognac is made from white grapes, primarily from the Ugni Blanc variety, which accounts for 98 percent of the vineyard area in Cognac.


The wide range of grape varieties used in Armagnac is a result of the region's long viticultural tradition, which results in a wine that is primarily intended for consumption rather than consumption. The Cognac region is primarily known for producing wine for distillation.


Distillation in the battle between ARMAGNAC and COGNAC


It is produced in two very different stills for the production of Armagnac and Cognac brandies. Due to the fact that Armagnac eau-de-vie, which contains less alcohol than Cognac eau-de-vie, draws an incomparable aromatic richness from its still, this is a fundamental distinction.


The "Armagnac" still is a copper column still that uses continuous low-degree distillation to produce the finished product. When the vapors of the heated wine meet the fresh wine, the process of impregnation occurs which contributes to the uniqueness of the Armagnac distillation process. One distillation of the wine ensures that the essence of the grape and its aroma are better preserved than with multiple distillations of the product. The Armagnac brandy has a titre of 54° after distillation, which indicates that it is aged.


The “cognaçais” or “charentais” alembic is a basic copper alembic with double heating that is used in the production of wine. The alcohol is distilled twice before being bottled. Upon bringing the wine to a boil, the vapors escape and gradually condense when the wine comes into contact with cold water.


This liquid (with a temperature between 27 and 32 degrees Celsius) is loaded into the boiler for a second distillation. The fractions at the beginning of the distillation (which are too rich in alcohol) and at the end of the distillation are both thrown away. The 72° strength of the "heart" eau-de-vie, which will be known as Cognac, is the most important.


Following the harvest, the distillation period for Armagnac and Cognac spirits is determined by the AOC and lasts from March 31 to April 30.

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