Last month featured an interesting fact about whisky, and cognac is an obvious one to follow whisky. Brandy like whisky is a product with big variations, and strong heritage and the ability to command top dollar. You won’t find rums, or tequila or certainly vodka able to do the same.
Even French brandy also divides based on age and quality into brandy, cognac and VSOP cognac.
Don’t put VSOP cognacs like Remy Martin in your cocktails. It’s the ordinary 3 or 5 star French brandies you want in cocktails. And only use French brandy. The rest of it like Metaxa is rubbish is in my opinion.
The best brandy comes from the Cognac region. And it is recognised as being so good that it has appellation controlee status like Parma Ham or Melton Mowbray pork pies, or indeed champagne – the fizzy drink.
But there’s more. The cognac area in France is divided into 6 grape growing areas, and of course these are ranked in order of quality based on their soil conditions and where they sit on the hill and hence the available sunshine they get. The top 2 areas are known as Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne so when Remy Martin states on the label that this is ‘Fine Champagne Cognac’ it’s boasting that it’s VSOP (very superior old pale) cognac comes from just those 2 areas. None of your rubbishy old Borderies or Fins Bois for them – oh no !
You can only call your cognac ‘fine champagne cognac’ with a harvest from these 2 grape growing areas. Confusingly then it has nothing to do with champagne – the other iconic French drink.
It does occur to me that French brandy is way behind scotch whisky in terms of it’s marketing. Scotch has an incredible variety of expressions, based on age, the type of casks the spirit is aged in, the soil (peat) used in the maltings etc. There are nothing like the same number of versions available of cognac. Anyway – just an aside.
This is the final one of the ‘an interesting fact about…’ series. You can catch up with any of the others in the series here;