Technology of cognac production: 5 steps to fine alcohol
The technology by which genuine cognac is produced is a rather complex, multi-step process, at times acquiring the features of true art. Over the five hundred year history of this drink, a series of rules and canons has been formed, strictly followed by the modern descendants of many generations of old masters. Some of these rules are even reflected in today’s French legislation. Spin, fermentation and distillation Cognac production technology, as a rule, involves the use of a special white grape variety “Uni Blanc”. With increased acidity and relatively slow ripening period, this grape is characterized by high yield and resistance to various diseases and pests.
Some small brandy enterprises use Colombar, Fol Blanche and Montil for their needs. However, these grape varieties, which give brighter, more aromatic and rich grape spirits, are extremely capricious and require careful maintenance. Immediately after the grape harvest, which takes place in October, the grapes are sent to a squeezer. For squeezing the juice, only horizontal pneumatic presses are used here, since the operation of these devices, in contrast to the screw, does not lead to crushing of grape seeds. Further, the fermentation of the extruded juice occurs. This process takes about three weeks. At the same time, it is strictly forbidden to add any sugar to the wort.
As a result, it turns out a young, very sour wine, having a strength of 10 degrees, which is subjected to distillation. Distillation of the resulting wine into alcohol is made in the archaic, but that did not become less effective, copper alambika. At this stage, the future cognac is subjected to double distillation. After the first distillation, crude alcohol is obtained with a strength of 27-32 degrees, to be re-processed. It is at this moment that the fate of the future drink is decided, wholly dependent on the sophistication of the master distiller. The fact is that repeated distillation presupposes competent isolation of the so-called average alcohol fraction, the only one suitable for subsequent transformation into brandy.
This part of the distillate, with a strength of 68-72 degrees, safely separated from the alcoholic “heads” and “tail”, eventually ends up in the famous cognac cellars of the French province of Charente. Exposure and blending Carefully selected cognac spirits are aged in special handmade barrels made from the famous Limousin and less well-known Tronsey oak. At the same time, before filling with alcohol, the barrels are burned. This is done to soften the wood in order to facilitate the process of interaction between the alcohol and its containing capacity. “Mature” drink in special brandy cellars. The duration of exposure varies between two and seventy years. In principle, it is possible to make it even longer, but further staying in a barrel will not affect the quality of cognac in any way. During its imprisonment, the drink, with its inherent grape spirits, easily absorbs substances contained in oak wood, which gives it a characteristic color, taste and smell. Interestingly, the parameters of brandy is also influenced by the level of humidity maintained in the cellar.
The lower the humidity, the tougher and more structured the drink becomes, the higher it is – the more rounded and softer its taste becomes. Upon reaching the planned age, the alcohol from the barrel is poured into large glass bottles, after which it is relocated to the part of the cellar, called paradise. Here the drink can be stored indefinitely on demand. To create most brands of cognac, produced on an industrial scale, using the method of blending. In order to give the drink the stable qualities inherent in one or another brand, the alcohols obtained from several yields of grapes are mixed. The dwell time of such a blended drink is determined by the age of the youngest of the alcohols that make up it. If, when creating brandy, the alcohol obtained from the harvest of one year was used, then such a drink is called millezimny. It is valued significantly higher, but it is subject to much more thorough state control. At the end of the cognac manufacturing process, bottles with less demanding drinks go to supermarkets, specialty stores or duty free boutiques. The more respectable inhabitants of the brandy cellars are returning to the local paradise, where they can safely wait for their buyer for centuries.