Brandy, Armagnac & Cognac
Brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn — “burnt wine”) is a spirit produced by distilling wine, the wine having first been produced by fermenting grapes. Brandy contains 36%–60% alcohol by volume and is normally consumed as an after-dinner drink. While some brandies are aged in wooden casks, most are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of such aging.
Brandy can also be made from fermented fruit (i.e., other than grapes) and from pomace.
The origins of brandy are clearly tied to the development of distillation. Concentrated alcoholic beverages were known in ancient Greece and Rome and may have a history going back to ancient Babylon. Brandy, as it is known today, first began to appear in the 12th century and became generally popular in the 14th century.
Types of brandy
There are three main types of brandy. The term “brandy” denotes grape brandy if the type is not otherwise specified.
Grape brandy is produced by the distillation of fermented grapes.
- American grape brandy is almost always from California. Popular brands include Christian Brothers, Coronet, E&J, Korbel, and Paul Masson.
- Armagnac is made from grapes of the Armagnac region in Southwest of France (Gers, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne). It is single-continuous distilled in a copper still and aged in oak casks from Gascony or Limousin. Armagnac was the first distilled spirit in France. Armagnacs have a specificity: they offer vintage qualities. Popular brands are Darroze, Baron de Sigognac, Larressingle, Delord, Laubade, Gélas and Janneau.
- Brandy de Jerez is the brandy from the area of South Jerez. As such it is an essential ingredient to Sherry but it is also available separately. Like Sherry and Cognac it is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The traditional production method has three characteristics: (1) Aged in American oak-wood casks with a capacity of 500 litres, previously having contained Sherry Wine. (2) The sue of the traditional ageing system of Criaderas and Soleras. (3) Aged exclusively within the municipal boundaries of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the province of Cádiz.
- Cognac comes from the Cognac region in France, and is double distilled using pot stills. Popular brands include Hine, Martell, Rémy Martin, Hennessy, Ragnaud-Sabourin, Delamain and Courvoisier.
- Portugal: Lourinhã, located in western Portugal, is one of the few brandy-making areas, besides Cognac and Armagnac, that have received appellation status.
- South African South African grape brandies are, by law, made almost exactly as in Cognac, using a double-distillation process in copper pot stills followed by aging in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. Because of this, South African brandies are of a very high quality. A popular brand is Klipdrift.
- Other countries: Grape brandy is also produced in many other countries, including Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, and Pakistan.
Grape brandy is best drunk from a tulip-shaped glass or a snifter, at a cool room temperature. Often it is slightly warmed by holding the glass cupped in the palm or gently heating it with a candle; however, such heating may cause the alcohol vapor to become pungent so that the aromas are overpowered.
Brandy, like whisky and red wine, exhibits more pleasant aromas and flavors at a lower temperature, e.g., 16° Celsius (61°F). In most homes, this would imply that brandy should be cooled rather than heated for maximum enjoyment. Furthermore, alcohol (which makes up 40% of a typical brandy) becomes thin as it is heated (and more viscous when cooled). Thus, cool brandy produces a fuller and smoother mouthfeel and less of a “burning” sensation.(Wikipedia)
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