Cognac, the Champagne of brandy, has accumulated eager devotees over the past couple of years. The spirit you might notice when glancing at the dessert menu is making a comeback, with more drinkers are ordering it before, during, and after dinner.
To better educate you on this kingly spirit, let’s start with some facts. Cognac was invented when farmers removed the water from wine to make it more portable on journeys. The distilled potion alone proved a unique, delicious means of getting tipsy and so a spirit was born.
Cognac must be made from one or a combination of just three types of grapes – Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard. It must be aged for at least two years and it must be double-distilled in copper pot stills of a particular shape and configuration. The grapes must be harvested only in October and it must be distilled only from November 1st to March 31st. Once distilled, Cognac has to be aged in barrels made from French oak from one of two specific forests.
There are three main classifications for Cognac:
- VS (Very Special) has been aged at least 2 years. Cognacs marked with three stars are also VS;
- VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) has been aged at least 4 years;
- XO (Extra Old) has been aged at least 10 years.
Unlike the wine it’s made from, Cognac won’t improve with time. Keep it in a cool, dark place, and it will stay just as delicious as the day it was bottled.
Reasons to drink Cognac
The entrancing effect of Cognac evokes a bygone era. As with whiskey, age factors into which Cognac is used where. Older vintages should be sipped alone on the rocks, while bright young ones can be turned into cocktails by mixing it with coke, Champagne or even Moscato.
Of course there’s no reason why Cognac and cooking shouldn’t mix. The spirit has a long tradition of culinary uses in European cuisine. It’s fantastic for deglazing pans and enhancing the flavour of sauces and soups.
Drinking moderate doses of cognac may help increase the amount of antioxidants your blood can absorb. A 2008 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that certain compounds in cognac may help keep blood cells from clumping together and limit the amount of work the heart needs to do, potentially lowering your risk for heart disease.
The truth is that Cognac should really never be out of style. Like great whisky, it’s an insight into the past, it’s versatile, and it tastes damn good. That last thing, more than any other reason, is why people love the stuff so much. It’s also why you should give it a chance in 2018.
Which one to pick?
We suggest you start with Martell Cognac VS Single Distillery, produced by the oldest of the world’s great cognac houses. This is the first VS cognac distilled from a single source to be produced by the House of Martell. Martell Cognac VS Single Distillery was launched in the US last year and South Africa is the second market in the world to receive it.
It’s an innovative blend that reflects the unique distillation style that is the brand’s hallmark, with a richer and more intense expression. It marries eaux-de-vie from a single distillery, which results in a laid-back Cognac marked by notes of the plum, orange peel, apricot and candied lemon that moves across the palate.
If you’ve not yet discovered the delights of Cognac, then this is the place to start.
Martell Cognac VS Single Distillery will be available from leading retailers countrywide. Expect to pay R400 for a bottle.