what makes a good french cognac

French Cognac, it can be safely said, is one of the most famous liquors in the world coming second only to its cousin, the champagne. While cognac is a variety of brandy it has to be noted that all brandy cannot be termed as French cognac. Cognac making has a specific process that has been endorsed by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac).
While French cognac cannot be replicated and the drink earns its name from the place, there are three places that cognac can be made namely, Cognac in France, Armagnac in France and Jerez in Spain. With the Spanish claim the French cognac producers have worked harder to become the most renowned cognac producers in the world. The French have perfected the art of cognac making for over three centuries. It is these rules and instructions that cognac makers must follow to get the best French cognac fit for consumption of the kings. If the drink falls short of the cognac making instructions, it merely remains a brandy.
One of the things that is characteristic of French cognac is the variety of grapes used to make the drink. Until the 1870’s the Folle Blanche variety of grapes was used to make cognac. However when the Phylloxera crisis affected Europe, the Folle Blanche variety were replaced with Ugni Blanc. Till this day Ugni Blanc stays as the principal variant of cognac comprising almost 95% of the blend. The remaining 5% can be made up of Colombard or Folle Blanche. However, some cognac producers are trying to go back to the traditional variant of grapes the Folle Blanche to make the finest French cognac.
Much of the flavor of French cognac is achieved by its distillation and aging process. This cognac needs to be distilled twice and uses only copper distillers. ‘Brouillis’ is the first step of distillation and the second step is the ‘repass’. This double distillation process ensures that a pure eaux-de-vie with an exact 72% alcohol purity is achieved and ensures that the spirit is completely colorless when it is put in the aging barrels.
French cognac also has to be aged for a specific period of time to earn its name rightfully. According to the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac), the cognac must be aged for a minimum of two years. It is during this time of aging that the barrels are rotated according to the cask age and season. As the cognac ages it draws the flavors of the French oak barrels and mixes it with the flavor and body of the spirit. This aging process also helps in making the cognac mellow and defines its specific characteristic.
As the French cognacs age more the grade of the cognac changes. A cognac that has matured for a period of two years gets a VS (Very Special) grade. A cognac aged for an average age of four years earns the VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) grade. The XO grade is the highest grade of French cognacs and is given to cognacs that have matured for at least six years in a French oak barrel.
Liking a good French cognac is subjective as it essentially depends on an individual palette. However, you can be certain that the older the cognac the more money you are likely to spend on it.

How to identify a fine cognac

Fine cognac is a type of brandy that is made only in the French region of Cognac. The origins of this drink date back to the early 16th century when Dutch settlers came to the town of Cognac to buy wood, salt and wine. However, the Dutch found it difficult to carry the one back home as preserving and conserving the wine was difficult. So they began experimenting with its preservation method and came up with the two time distillation process. The Dutch discovers that by distilling the wine in an eau-de-vie and then distilling it once more gave them a richer and stronger spirit. And with that the cognac was born.

While brandy earns its name from the Dutch word “brandewijn” meaning burnt wine, it is brandy made in the Cognac region alone that can earn the name of a cognac. There are designated areas that are listed for Cognac production. These areas are Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires. These regions are listed in order of their cognac aging potential and production quality.

Because of its fine reputation, the BNIC—Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac, has laid down very strict rules for production of cognac. This implies that specific rules have to be complied with right from grape selection, distillation, aging, assembly and stocking of the cognac. There are quality grades that are officially assigned to cognacs. The VS(Very Special), Selection and de Luxe range are the youngest of the spirits having been aged for a minimum of four years. The VSOP( Very Special Old Pale) and Reserve is aged between four to six years. The Napoleon, XO, Hors d’age, Imperial, Vieux reserve and Vieux Is are aged for a minimum of six years. However, some of the prestigious Cognac names age their spirits for much longer to get the desired depth and flavor to the wine.

Along with the distillation and aging process of the cognac, the other thing that has to be consistent to earn the name of Cognac is the varietal of grapes used. Ugni Blanc is the primary variety of grapes used in Cognac production. These grapes have a high acidity level and a subtle aroma. Along with the Ugni Blan grapes which consist of almost 95% of the cognac blend, Folle Blanche and Colombard are also used.

‘Fine’ was a term that was given to a cognac to name its vintage. Fine cognac essentially comes from the grand Champagne and Petit Champagne eaux- du- vie with Grand Champagne dominating by almost 50%. So if a cognac is listed as a Fine Grand Champagne, then this cognac will have been assembled with 100% of Grand Champagne spirits. This combination of flavors gives the Fine Cognac its unique flavor and quality.

Some of the biggest names in fine cognac are Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Hennessy and Martell. Almost 90% of all the fine cognac is produced for these four companies despite there being almost close to 200 producers of cognac. The older the fine cognac the better it is supposed to taste. But drinking fine cognac has a lot to do with your personal palette and should ideally be experienced by taking in all the notes of the cognac and relishing its body of flavor.

complete your french rendezvous at the domaine du Breuil

Domaine du breuil was originally one of the foremost brandy producing houses in Cognac. Today it is an enchanting hotel with twenty four guest rooms overlooking breathtaking views. Built in the nineteenth century in the Louis Philippe style, this château is spread over seventeen acres of green and offers gentle hospitality and gorgeous surroundings.

All the guest rooms in the Domaine du Breuil are well appointed bearing in mind the guest’s ultimate well being. The huge bow windows in the rooms under the roof open into the chateau grounds and get unending views of the River Charente. One can admire the unending patchwork of rolling greens through these personal quarters. There are rooms of various sizes starting from the standard going up to the deluxe category. All rooms are very well furnished some with large king size beds and others with comfortable twin beds. The old world charm of the rooms is perfectly complemented with modern day creature comforts. You will get your room replete with a flat screen television, WiFi internet access, direct line phones, mini bar, well appointed bathrooms complete with hair dryers, a personal safe and even a towel warmer.

The Domaine du Breuil restaurant is a gastronomic delight. Defined by its classic elegance the restaurant is ideally located. It has huge picture windows that overlook the valley and the River Charente. For enjoying the spectacular weather of this region you could also try dining on the terrace of the Domaine du Breuil. Bringing the best of the French cuisine to the table, the chefs at Domaine du Breuil keep changing the restaurant menu amalgamating the best of seasonal produce with enchanting flavors.

The Domaine du Breuil also draws inspiration from its history and presents to its visitors an excellent ‘Cognatheque’. Revel in the excellent selection of the finest cognacs and brandies. It is here that you can sip on the ‘Grand Breuil’ which is one of the finest Grand Cru brandies. To make your experience even more delightful look out for the special menu designed by the chateaus head chef, which tastefully combine a selected brandy with each course.

For those who want to soak up the quintessential French hospitality and want to delight in their gastronomic wonders, the Domaine du Breuil is the perfect place to be. But apart from spending lazy afternoons soaking in the sun and admiring the beauty surrounding the chateau there is a lot that one can do. The grounds of the Domaine du Breuil have wooded parkland which makes it the perfect spot for either a jog early in the morning or take a quite snooze. The property also has a heated infinity pool and a golf range. One can also go exploring the green way on bicycles and discover the quaint town of Cognac and its numerous brandy cellars.

The tranquil Domaine du Breuil is the perfect setting to explore and experience Cognac. There are loads to do and you will never find yourself wanting of activity. You can easily walk around to the town of Cognac and admire its beautiful mansions, take a look at the villa where the Valois king Francois I was born or find yourself in a boat along the Charente enjoying the beautiful countryside. Complete your French rendezvous by spending a few days at the Domaine du Breuil.

tease your taste buds with the finest Courvoisier XO

Courvoisier XO is a fine offering from the house of Courvoisier. Courvoisier has been in the business of making the finest cognac for centuries. The colorful history of this cognac goes on to say that it was the preferred drink of none other than Napoleon himself. Legend goes that it was in 1811 that Napoleon visited the warehouse of Emmanuel Courvoisier located in suburban Paris in a place called Bercy. So impressed was Napoleon by Courvoisier’s cognac that he took several barrels of the same to St Helena earning Courvoisier’s cognac the name of ‘the Cognac of Napoleon’.

It was in 1843 that Felix Courvoisier, the son of Emmanuel Courvoisier who established the Courvoisier cognac business in the Jarnac region in the south of France. Courvoisier continued to be one of the finest cognac producers and this title was reinstated by Napoleon III who certified Courvoisier to be the “Official Suppliers to the Imperial Court” in 1869.

The Courvoisier business changed hands in 1909 with the Simon Family from England taking over the reins. This family changed the face of the Courvoisier cognac brand and began developing its global appeal. They gave the Courvoisier Cognac the Napoleon silhouette and also introduced the world famous Josephine bottle. Currently owned by Jim Beam Global, Courvoisier Cognac still maintains its high standards of blending and crafting as was introduced by its founders almost two centuries ago.

Courvoisier is in partnership with over a thousand wine making families over generations. But what guarantee the legendary quality of the Courvoisier cognac are the Ugni Blanc grapes. These grapes are chosen from the finest wine producing region in the Cognac region namely, Grand Champagne, Petit Champagne, Fins Bois and Borderies. To ensure that the finest cognac is produced from its distilleries, Courvoisier uses comparatively smaller stills in its distilleries giving them better control over the complexity and quality of the younger cognac.

The Courvoisier XO is an intense and complex presentation from the range of cognacs blended by Courvoisier. It presents an intensely aromatic experience wrapped in a velvety texture capturing hints of oranges, apricots and pears. Complementing this bouquet are the rich aromas of vanilla and chocolate along with amber and exotic bakery spices. The finish of the Courvoisier XO is mellow and long with lingering development and great depth. It can asserted that the Courvoisier XO finds a perfect balance of complex flavors giving the taster a long and satisfying and a sweet experience.

The Courvoisier XO is an extra old cognac. It has been aged for twenty five to 30 years and is a colorful blend of Borderies, Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie and Petit Champagne. This cognac has great richness and length. The sweetness and body of the spirit can be felt long after. This dark caramel colored cognac has also earned the title of ‘Best Cognac in the World’ at the Wine and Spirits competition.

Courvoisier XO is aged in fine old French oak barrels to achieve its tasteful perfection. It has the taste and consistency belonging to the finest of cognacs and makes it a superb idea to add it in the cognac connoisseur’s personal collection or offer it as a discerning gift.

Experience the rich history of cognac Remy Martin

Cognac is popularly known as the mother of brandy and cognac Remy Martin from the Cognac region of France is one of the more famous and preferred cognacs. It’s history dates back to 1724 when Remy Martin, a French winemaker founded the company which is now owned by Remy Cointreu, a company founded in 1991.
In the class of fine champagnes, Remy Martin is well known to cognac enthusiasts, many would say that it is exclusively for the connoisseurs. Not surprising, since it comes from the areas of the Cognac region which are the two best ones. it’s of a little wonder then that this was the cognac selected to toast queen Elizabeth when she visited France in 1957.
The class this cognac made itself apparent when Lois XV granted Remy Martin the exceptional right to plant new vines despite the ban of 1731. There was never a looking back for this excellent spirit. In 1870, the mythical centaur symbol was adopted to represent Remy Martin. It was chosen because it represented Sagittarius, the zodiac sign of Paul Remy Martin, and for the world this symbol has been synonymous with cognac at its best.
However, it was in 1898 that Paul Emile Remy Martin realised the true potential of this cognac and it was hereafter its journey to the top began. The Remy Martin Fine Champagne V.S.O.P was launched in 1927 and it was an instant success as people were very quick to recognise its class and superior quality. The brand went international in 1937 when Remy Martin established itself as the official supplier to the royal and imperial courts in the United States Of America and Singapore in 1967.
1938 was the year for new accolades with the French government recognising the complementing qualities of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, the only blend of two crus resulting in the protection of AOC(the French law of 1938). This meant Remy Martin’s superior quality acquired a legal recognition. Thereafter, remaining true to history, from 1948, the House of Remy Martin decided to blend All of its cognac from the above mentioned crus.
In 1965, Remy Martin signed the first contracts with distillers and winegrowers from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne and the Alliance Fine Champagne was formed. In 1972, Remy Martin acquired another identity which became synonymous with its name, which was the dark frosted green bottle with VSOP as the distinctive labels on the containers. It quickly went on to get worldwide acclaim.
History makes its presence felt even now as nothing has changed in the making process of Remy Martin since 1924. The grapes that are used even now only come from the two regions of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. Distillation is still done as it was done then – on the lees in small copper stills, which results in a complex spirit with a rich flavour. All the barrels that used for the aging process are made from French oak called Limousin, which gives it a greater aroma.
While being steeped in tradition, Remy Martin understands its commitment to nature and the ecosystem and is committed to environmentally friendly winemaking procedures. It is also contributing to a reforestation project along with the United Nations Environmental Program.
Little wonder then, that Cognac Remy Martin remains the first choice of a true connoisseur and will be so forever.




Enjoy the experience in a perfect cognac glass

One of the most refined drinks in the world is cognac that is the best accompaniment for after dinner conversations. A luxurious cousin of brandy, to savor its flavor to the fullest is it important to use the right cognac glass. Cognac is a brandy that is distilled twice and aged in French oak barrels to achieve its flavor and texture. One of the most expensive cocktails, so it is imperative that a proper cognac glass is used experience its flavor.

The cognac glass is a wonderful combination of function and pure delight. The glass is designed while taking into consideration its aroma, the temperature, and volume. The shape of the glass enhances the experience of drinking cognac by emphasizing its deep color and allowing movement of drink.

The glasses for cognac are of two types, one is a tulip shaped glass and the other is snifter which is a balloon shaped glass. They both are unique and offer different advantages.

Cognac connoisseurs stress on the right shape of the glass to best enjoy the drink. The tulip shaped glasses are preferred that is so named after the flower. It is a cognac glass with a long stem that opens into a large bell and curves inward at the top and flares outward at the rim. It is best suited for the XO cognacs like Remy martin or VSOP cognacs that are aged for number of years and have an expressive character that lingers into a long finish that is typical of an old cognac. The shape is such that it maximizes the surface area of the liquid accentuating its color while releasing its aroma and enhancing the flavor.

The second, slightly less preferred, is the so called balloon glass, also called the snifter. This is a short stemmed glass that balloons at the bottom and slopes inwards towards the narrow top. The balloon glass gives the cognac large surface area to release its scents and aromas and the smaller opening at the top concentrates the scents for the nose but to a lesser degree than the tulip glass.

Purists insist that in order to enjoy and appreciate this luxurious distilled spirit the above mentioned glasses are the only one from which to drink your cognac. After all great effort, time and care goes into making of one of the finest drinks in the world. They believe that the cognac is to be had neat without mixing anything else and at room temperature. But it can be mixed with other drinks, alcoholic or non alcoholic, and had in other type of a glass. You may mix your cognac with sparking water that can be had in a rock glass, which is a glass without stem.

One can always improvise if proper cognac glasses are not available. In such case the wine glass can be used as an alternative to cognac glasses.

The whole idea of a proper cognac glass is to have maximum area for the movement of the liquid, but narrowing at the rim so that you get the intensity of the bouquet. An inward curve with an outward flare at the rim ensures the best introduction to the palate. If you enjoy your cognac in the neat form, then you owe it to the drink to have the great tasting experience in a perfect cognac glass.

Cognac Courvoisier – Distinct taste and character

Though there are more than 200 producers of cognac 90% of the market is captured by the four big ones namely, Courvoisier, Remy Martin, Hennessy, and Martell. Legend has it that cognac Courvoisier was the preferred cognac of Napoleon and therefore it is also called the ‘The cognac of the Napoleon’.

Courvoisier cognac is characterized by layers and layers of aroma that makes for its greatness in its each sip. Its subtly classic taste combined with the mastery of making it makes you enjoy each sip of this cognac. The two types of Courvoisier, the VSOP and OX are distinct in taste and smoothness. The exquisite cognac with its depth and complexity makes it definitely a brand name synonymous with sophistication and great taste. The cognac Courvoisier OX is the superior variant that has been aged for about 25-30 years, XO denoting extra old. It comes in a magnificent tear drop shaped bottle, is very smooth and tastes likes oak, chocolate, nuts, caramel and orange. VSOP (very superior old pale) Courvoisier is aged for 8 – 12 years that has a gold caramel color. It is little hot while you drink it and has a oak taste followed by the nutty flavor. You can buy Courvoisier VSOP for about $30 -$40 where as the XO type is far ahead with a price tag of about $140 – $150.

There is the famous napoleon Courvoisier cognac that is matured up to 20years. The maturity of the blends brings out its signature old port, prune and orange blossom notes. Enjoy it neat, after pouring it in the cognac glass let it sit for a minute so that it allows the air to develop the distinct taste of the cognac.

You can visit the House of Courvoisier that is just out side the town of cognac at a place called Jamac. The visitor centre not only displays the cognac but stress is to ‘sense’ the Courvoisier. One is encouraged to sense all the five senses of sight, sound, taste, feel, and smell. Visitors can hear the blending, see the amber color liquid, feel the full bodied, mellow and round cognac, and the taste that is complex yet elegant giving out aroma of old port, orange blossom, and hazelnuts. The visit emphasizes what a good cognac should be, a blend of aroma and taste that stays with you through the visit. That’s the reason the Courvoisier cognac is reputed internationally for producing finest cognac over centuries. It is the only cognac to be awarded highest award in France for its impeccable quality.

Another prestigious cognac making houses, domaine du breuil is now a small hotel that one can visit to experience the history of the town of cognac. It over looks the valley of river Charente and offers gorgeous views of the country side around cognac. After visiting the brandy ware houses around you can eat at their restaurant that is the best place to eat in cognac. Its menu incorporates the finest cognac with each of its course making the experience unforgettable.

There is no doubt that cognac Courvoisier is seeped in traditional French heritage and has gained well earned international reputation. The crafting and production of cognac Courvoisier ensures highest quality that is close to perfection.