Cognac is without a doubt one of the most fabulous drinks on the planet. It’s often called an “avec” (with) but if there is one drink that can stand on its own, it’s Cognac.
The Cognac producing area is divided into smaller geographical zones, or crus, with Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne perhaps being the most well-known of the bunch. These areas, however, do not have anything to do with the sparkling wine called Champagne, so try not to mix those two.
The Production of Cognac
Ugni Blanc, also known as Trebbiano, is by far the most important grape variety in the production of Cognac but a handful of other varieties can be used such as Folle Blanche and Colombard. The harvested grapes are pressed, and fermentation takes place resulting in a low-alcohol wine that tastes something like lemon juice mixed with battery acid.
Luckily, the process does not end there. The wine is then distilled and voilà, a spirit called eau-de-vie is born. Then it’s time to age the eau-de-vie in casks, a minimum of two years, to give it a final but essential touch.
You might have seen written on a Cognac label VS, VSOP, and XO. It’s not a secret code designed to intimidate you or confuse your thirsty little brain.
VS stands for Very Special and has to be aged for a minimum of two years. VSOP means Very Superior Old Pale, and it has to spend at least four years in a cask.XO, the granddaddy of the bunch, stands for Extra Old and is aged for a minimum of six years. However, there is a plan to raise the XO aging limit to ten years in April 2018 making that extra old Cognac even older.
But without further ado, here’s a list of high quality Cognacs to get you acquainted.
Rémy Martin VSOP Mature Cask Finish
Rémy Martin is one of the major players in cognac today, and their VSOP Mature Cask Finish is a perfectly well-rounded sip. It doesn’t punch you in the face with sharp aromas, but it still has plenty of character. An excellent introductory Cognac for beginners and a solid crowd-pleaser even amongst more seasoned enthusiast.
Delamain Vesper XO
Delamain Vesper XO is a fine example of a mature Cognac with a rich flavor profile. Intense sure but with a smooth mouthfeel that lasts for days. This house also produces some excellent vintage Cognacs that are worth a try if you have the rare opportunity.
Camus Borderies VSOP
Borderies is the smallest cru in Cognac, but some enthusiasts swear it is the best one. True or not, Camus Borderies VSOP gives a tasty insight into the significance of terroir in the making of Cognac.
Hine Rare VSOP
Fruity, delicate and powerful like a mammoth - but not as hairy. Some might take a more serious approach to Hine Rare VSOP and with good reason, but I just think this is an incredibly delicious drink that is just fun to enjoy. At the end of the day, a good Cognac should make you smile; this does just that.
If I said Busta Rhymes singing “pass the Courvoisier” didn’t influence this pick, I would be lying, but it’s not because of those funky tunes that this Cognac is one of my go-to cognacs. Courvoisier VSOP is a nuanced Cognac and approachable, both taste and price tag, and extremely fun to play around in cocktails. Some people don’t think Cognac is fit for cocktails, but that is clearly just utter nonsense.