Cognac isn’t simply about enjoying the taste but an opportunity to sit an contemplate the worldly issues in life. After all, this is a drink that started its journey years, decades or even centuries ago. It comes flavoured with the culmination of all the finest flavours of an ear gone by. So, let’s take a closer look at this ancient ‘water of life’ and how to choose the perfect drop.
All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac is made from a select number of acidic grape varieties from the Cognac region only in France. This region is steeped in tradition and still upholds the many rules and regulations for creating these quality blends. When looking at a bottle of Cognac it is stamped with authenticity but understanding the label will determine its origin, age, quality and often its price point too.
The age of a Cognac is the first key to determining a good drop, and it only can be aged in French oak barrels which helps to add its diversity of flavours. Think colours and aromas of caramel, toffee, leather and a warm spice blend which are produced from these special oak vessels. VS or Very Special Cognac indicates that the spirit has been aged in the barrel for at least two years. VSOP, or Very Superior Old Pale, has been similarly aged for a minimum of four years. XO or Extra Old Cognac has been aged for at least ten years.
Special designations are used to classify the origins and specific regions of the grapes used to create a certain bottle of Cognac. These classifications or crus include (in descending order of recognized quality) Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires. Each region produces a Cognac with a slightly different flavour, and most blends are known for defining characteristics dependant on the crus they use. Perhaps the most famous blend, Fine Champagne Cognac is a combination of Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne only.
Our top picks include:
A perfect glass for a weeknight nightcap is the Frapin VSOP Grande Champagne Premier Cru Cognac. A milder earthly autumnal aroma. Silky and spicy on the palate with a lingering butterscotch afternote. Average price AUD $80.
For a finer blend, we recommend Château De Montifaud XO Fine Petite Champagne. This beautifully aged Cognac has comforting vanilla and apple aromas with a slight spice of pepper. It is bright on the palate with a mouthfeel that’s not too heavy or hot, and it finishes with a pleasing nutty flavour. With an average price of AUD $120, it makes it a perfect drop following a special meal.
As the price increases so too do the quality with the Rémy Martin OX. This is their signature blend from a cellar that has over 300 years of Cognac craftsmanship experience. A rich & velvety body with the perfect expression of Fine Champagne opulence on the palate with juicy plums, candied oranges, a hint of hazelnut and cinnamon flavours. Average price AUD $230.
The Hennessy Paradis, a cognac reserved for those special moments in life that must be marked with the best. A blend that has been made using only the finest and rarest grape varieties, then aged up to 130 years. This is full-bodied flavour with delicious scents of rose and sweet oak. A spice that invades the palate and leaves a long and lingering impression of elegance and finesse. This is the cream of the crop starting at AUD $1500 per bottle.