What is the difference between Cognac & Brandy?

Is Cognac just the same as brandy?

The literal definition of brandy is: any distilled spirit that is made from fruit juice (apples, pears, grapes). And yes, Cognac is also a distilled spirit made from fruit juice (so it actually is a type of brandy), however its the regulations around the making of the Cognac that make it distinctive.  Lets look into it in more detail…

Where do they come from?

Where brandy can be made anywhere in the world, Cognac can ONLY be made in a certain region in South-Western France, in the small grape-growing region surrounding the town of Cognac (about a 3-hour train ride from Paris and just north of the world-renowned wine region of Bordeaux). The more premium Cognac’s are from the Grande Champagne or Petite Champagne sub-regions, while the Borderies, and Fin Bois are sill considered to produce very high quality.

What are they made from?

Brandy can technically be made with any fruit juice (although it is mostly made with some sort of grapes). Cognac must be made up of a minimum of 90% of little known varietals  Folle Blanche, Colombard &  Ugni Blanc. with up to 10% of varying other grape varieties being allowed.

What is the distillation process?

Brandy can be distilled using any distillation process (most commonly it is a continuous method). Cognac however, has severe regulations around distillation: it must be double-distilled, a far superior and more expensive method that results in a highly alcoholic and very pure spirit. And it must be distilled in copper. What difference does this made? Think of the difference between cooking potatoes in boiling water, or frying them in butter… copper adds flavour that simply can’t be replicated!

What is the ageing process?

Brandy can be aged in any style of oak casks, and while in some countries (ie France) classify it in the same age scale as Cognac, some countries do not have the same regulations. Cognac is always aged in Limousine or Tronçais oak casks.

VS (Very Special) 2+ years

VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) 4+ years

XO (Extra Old) 10+ years

Essentially:  Cognac is to brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine… Similar in so many ways, yet made in one location in a superior fashion, resulting in an exclusively French premium product (that can also fetch much higher prices!). 

 

About Grand Breuil…

Grand Breuil is exclusive to Vendimia in Australia, carefully selected by the Vendimia tasting panel from many of the Cognac houses for its superior quality but great affordability compared to the 4 big brands (think Martell, Rémy Martin, Hennessy and Courvoisier).

For cognac-makers and siblings Lilian & Jerome Tessendier, the art of crafting Grand Breuil cognac is to turn time into an ally. Having learnt the art of distillation through experience, passion and history, this pair are said to have noses like none other in the Cognac world! Fruity, floral and woody scents give their cognac prestige and nobility. As well as flavour and aroma, the very history of the prestigious Grand Breuil cognac is unveiled at each tasting occasion.

 

FUN FACT: When the distillation process is finished, the Cognac comes out as a clear spirit (like Vodka) and has 70% alcohol. The ageing in oak barrels gives it the colour & the alcohol percentage is actually watered down to the standard 40% using highly sophisticated blending techniques.

Tempranillo [temp-rah-nee-yo]

TEMPRANILLO. [Pronounced: temp-rah-nee-yo]

A Spanish grape varietal, generally producing wine with slightly savoury characteristics. While Spanish versions usually reflect more leather, cherries and earthiness, Australian winemaking and terroir tends to product more fruit-driven examples with black cherry and blueberries driving the palate.

Medium bodied and with decent (but not usually overwhelming) tannins, it could be considered Spain’s answer to Italy’s sangiovese and complements the food of its country: chorizo, tapas, spicy seafood, paella, tacos, burritos… you get the drift. Generally more responsive in warmer climates, the Australian regions with most success making tempranillo are the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Heathcote and Margaret River.

A TRULY TASTY TANTALISING TEMPRANILLO!

A singing tempranillo to try out this summer is from the Willunga 100 vineyard in the McLaren Vale. Crack it open at your afternoon barbeque, and because it compliments food so well, you can enjoy it with just about anything (although it really shines with Spanish and Mexican flavours). It’s another great drop from wine‑maker Mark Farmilo, who has recently been working alongside Willunga in their winemaking.

The wine is highly accoladed: 93 points & five stars from Wine Orbit; 91 points from Patrick Eckel; 90 points from Huon Hooke and the 2017  vintage has recently scored 95 points and Gold with James Halliday!

“Excellent colour; very precise black cherries, spices and darker berries on the back-palate, fine but firm tannins. Will relish time in bottle, and its great balance willstand it in good stead. Quality oak, too.” – JAMES HALLIDAY, 1ST AUGUST 2019.

https://www.vendimia.com.au/products/24337-willunga-100-tempranillo/

 

The 100 Point System

What is this 100 point system I keep hearing about in the wine world??

Robert Parker Junior published the subscription-based Wine Advocate for over 30 years, predicated on his ability to pick winners. The great 1982 Bordeaux reds were overlooked by the traditional English wine critics, but Parker trumpeted their virtues. He was right, and his reputation was set in stone.

Parker began using a 100 point system, with all his top wines scoring in the high-90’s. Parker has awarded 100 points to the Chamber’s Rosewood Rutherglen Rare Muscat. The US-based Wine Spectator followed Parker’s lead with their 1995 Top 100 Wine of the Year awarded to the 1990 Penfold’s Grange with a rating of 97 points – a wine listed at $100 USD per bottle!!

Australian Wine Shows have now adopted the 100 point system with wines scoring less than 85 points in the N.B.M. category, a silver medal awarded at 90 points and a gold above 95. James Halliday follows the 100 point system, scoring the Morris of Rutherglen Old Premium Rare Liqueur Muscat at 100 points.

Victories versus value… is it worth it??

In reality, medals and trophies are only a guide and rarely take into account price. A $15 bottle can rub shoulders in the same wine-show class as a $150 bottle. Is the $150 bottle ten times as good? No—it may be better but the multiplier effect really doesn’t work with wine. Wines in the $10-$20 range are made to drink now and not necessarily cellared for a decade. Winning a medal — or even better, a trophy — is a quality guide but in the end, trust your palate and buy the wines that bring pleasure to you, your family and your friends.