How to make brandy
It all starts in the vineyard. Many varieties are allowed to make cognac, but currently 90% of the area is occupied by Ugni Blanc grapes, which came here from Italy several centuries ago. The remaining amount is more traditional Folle Blanche and Colombard.
Grapes are made quite sour and weak wine, with a strength of 7.5-10 degrees, which is then twice distilled in special distillery cubes, called Charentais alambikami. By the way, their form and even volume are legally regulated. In addition, the dates were determined: since historically the wine began to turn sour with the arrival of the spring thaws, the law requires that the distillation be finished no later than March 31 of the year following the harvest year. On April 1, the distillate should be poured into barrels – and from that moment on, the age of the alcohol is taken as zero, the aging period begins.
Alcohols can be aged in barrels for a very long time, from several years to several decades. The best and most promising spirits in selected barrels can last up to 50-70 years. Alcohols can survive longer for experiments – they lose all the freshness and fruitiness and acquire too strong taste and aroma of wood (not to mention the losses, because during the aging process a little alcohol constantly evaporates – this is romantically called “angel’s share”). In general, the older the cognac, the less freshness and more complex aromatic tones, which are appreciated by connoisseurs, but not everyone likes them.
The age of the oldest alcohol manufacturers sometimes like to embellish. According to some sales managers, almost hundred-year-old spirits are added to many old cognacs everywhere. And a lot! It is declared only in words, but not on the label in any way, so that it cannot be brought to account at the legal level. Probably, there is nothing bad in this, except that people are starting to accept centenary spirits almost for granted. As a result, cognacs, on which 20-30 years are honestly indicated, are perceived by many as young, although in reality they are amazing drinks of the highest class.
When, according to the cellar master, spirits reach their full maturity, they are poured into large bottles of Dames-Jons (Dames-Jeanne) and cleaned into the most distant and prestigious part of the basement called Paradis (Paradis means “paradise”). The final blends are created from a wide range of alcohols, which should not only be age appropriate and of proper quality, but also reflect the style of the house. However, there are also millezimnye cognacs of the same year, although this is not very characteristic. A wide range of vintages are offered at home such as Delamain, Hine or Lheraud.