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Cognac and Production

Cognac Production

 

Regions

 

Cognac region is North of Bordeaux, and comprises of 6 winegrowing areas or crus, all Designation of Origin (DO) Cognac, for the production of the Grape based spirit (brandy) called Cognac.

They include Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderises, Bon Bois, Bois Ordinaries and Fin Bois

Generally accepted the best of grapes grown for Cognac in these regions is from the 2 Champagne regions and the Borderies region.

With only 13% of the production from Bois Ordinaries and Bon Bois.

Historically due to the coastal proximity, the region became famous for their brandy production, as it had access to the shipping ports for trade with many other nations, particularly England and the Americas.

 

Raw materials

 

There a 6 major grape varietals used in the production of Cognac.

Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanc, Montils, Semillion, Colombard and Folignan.

The major one used (98% of production) is Ugni Blanc, a low sugar high acid producing grape.

 

Process

 

Due to the nature of Cognac, which does not allow for the use of SO2 in production, the acidity is the major requirement to prevent microbial interference and oxidation.

The grapes are machine harvested, and must be crushed and pressed gently to prevent unwanted flavours from skins and seeds.

Then the must is fermented, no additional sugar or must enrichment is allowed, as the producer is producing a low alcohol wine for distillation.

Cultured yeast is used for fermentation, and once complete undergoes Malolactic fermentation increase stability.

Then it is stored awaiting distillation, the wine is protected due to the high acidity.

 

Distillation

 

Cognac must be distilled before the 31st of March the following year of harvest.

This done in a double pot still called a Charentias, legally defined.

The First Distillation is called Brouillis, and is 27-30% ABV and to maximum of 140HL.

The second distillation may not exceed 72.4%ABV and may only have 25HL in the 30HL sized still.

There are several styles within the distillation of Cognac named after the 4 main houses that produce it.

Martell method aims for a lighter cleaner style, while the Remy style aims for fuller richer style, with Hennessey and Courvoisier styles falling in between.

The differences are mainly to do with cuts and lees.

The Martell houses do not use Lees in the distillation, while Remy does, and use of lees is believed to benefit longer aging styles, with a fuller richer flavours.

The heads and tails are put back into the Brouillis giving a higher alcohol, and richer flavours preferred by Remy, or are redistilled (Martell).

With the other Houses use a mix of both to produce their own styles.

 

Post Production.

 

Blend of Cognac and water (petite Eaux) is used to bring the ABV to 40%

Cognac must be matured for 2 years in oak, with the labelling terms defined by this maturation level.

Use of oak chips is allowed generally not used for premium products.

Caramelisation for colour adjustment is allowed

 

Labelling terms.

Grand Champagne, 85% of grapes used must be from Grand Champagne region.

Fine Champagne, 85% of grapes used must be from either Champagne regions (though 50% must be Grand Champagne).

 

3star, VS, must be aged for 2 years

VSOP must be aged for 4years

XO, Napoleon, Hors ‘d age must be aged for at least 6 years, generally 10 years.

 

 

 

 

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