All cognacs are brandies, but not all brandies are cognac. So what are the differences between a cognac and a brandy? Here we tell you everything you need to know about it!
Brandy comes from the dutch word "brande wijn" which translates to “branded wine”.
The generic term “brandy” is used worldwide for all grape-based distilled eaux-de-vie.
Armagnac and cognac are the two main brandies in France. But Brandy can be found all over the world: South Africa, Italy, Australia, Armenia, Spain, ...
Brandy is tightly related to french wine history.
During the fourteenth century, transporting wine was a real challenge in any commercial exchange between two countries. Wine usually ended up stale, deteriorated by a long trip. Discovering the alembic and disseminating its use helped tremendously to make sure that the wine kept all its properties, by heating it twice (the first distillation and the second distillation). Distilling the wine in order to preserve it, and transport it, made brandy what it is known for. These eaux-de-vie were stocked in wooden casks to facilitate its maritime transport. This is how Brandy was born.
France is the first european country in terms of brandy production, before Spain and Italy.
Brandy can be made from white and black grapes while cognac can only be made from white grapes. Cognac is therefore a brandy, but an exceptional brandy thanks to its method of production and its specific and demanding specifications.
Cognac has been subject to relatively strict specifications since 1936:
- Production in a specific geographical area, around the town of Cognac.
- Only 3 white grape varieties allowed (Ugni blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche)
- Double distillation in copper stills
- Ageing in French oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years
Historically, Cognac was simply distilled to ensure its preservation. The product obtained, was a kind of brandy. It was exported to the rest of northern Europe for blending: by making a wine with an eau-de-vie, it improved its ageing capacity. The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) Cognac was born.
Not all Brandies go through all of these processes. However, certain criteria must be met to enter the Brandy category:
- Grape-based brandies (white and black)
- Aging of at least 6 months
What will differentiate cognac from other brandies, is the taste. You don't have to be an expert to feel the difference between both. The aromatic palette of cognac is more complex. The dress, the nose and the mouth will be easily differentiated.
Cognac is therefore indeed a brandy, but to obtain the designation of "cognac", a brandy must meet a certain number of requirements, the most important being: to be produced in Cognac. Therefore, there are no cognacs produced outside the Cognac region.