Cognac is a strong alcoholic beverage obtained by distilling several varieties of wine and aging the product in oak barrels. It is a variety of brandy whose name comes from the French city of Cognac. The drink is produced in the wine region of the French provinces of Charente and Charente-maritime. In order for distilled brandy to be called cognac, the production methods must meet certain conditions: it must be produced from certain grape varieties that are twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged in French oak barrels Limousin or Tronçais.
The Appearance and Further Development Cognac Industry
Cognac originates in the 16th century, when Dutch merchants came to Charente to purchase salt, wood, and wine. However, the journey back home made preserving of the wine difficult and they needed to find a better way to conserve it. The producers decided to distill it and this was essentially the birth of brandy. The word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn” which means, ”Burnt wine”.
In the seventeenth century winemakers from Charente began to apply the method of double distillation, which led to an improvement in the quality of the drink. Thus, cognac reached maturity while being kept in oak barrels, due to which the drink acquired its characteristic color.
In a short period of time, cognac became very popular and began to be considered the best distilled drink in the world. In the eighteenth century, trading houses started to buy cognac for sales to Northern Europe, to Netherlands and England. Since 1794, the cognac has been exported North America. In this period there emerged several large manufacturers such as Martell (1715), Rémy Martin (1724), Hennessy (1765). Since then, the cognac industry has grown considerably and settled in four large manufacturing regions around the city of Cognac: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Premier Bois and Deuxieme Bois.
In 1909, the French government issued a decree providing that only a drink that is produced in the Cognac regions, distilled and stored in oak barrels, can be called cognac.
In 1936, some new production rules were established: distilled wine should be obtained exclusively from white grapes and the addition of sugar was strictly prohibited. To ensure the high quality of the product, in 1946, an organization called Le Bureau National Interprofessionel de Cognac (B.N.I.C) was established.
Currently, cognac can be distilled from wines made only from certain grape varieties (Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche & Colombard), and after a double distillation, the resulting drink should mature for at least two years before it can be considered cognac.
Currently, the most popular cognac brands in the world are Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin and Camus.
Denomination of Cognac in Different Regions of the World
As a result of the decree issued in 1909, all states that produced cognac were forced to find other names for the drink obtained by distilling certain varieties of wine and stored in oak barrels. Each state also uses its own wine varieties for its manufacturing.
In many European countries the drink is sold under the name Brandy, other states have their own names. In Spain it is called Brandy de Jerez, in Greece one can buy the local drink Metaxa, also called "Greek cognac", in Armenia it is made under the name Arbun, Bulgarians call it Pliska, and in Albania it is called Skënderbeu.
In several French regions, one can find drinks similar to cognac called Armagnac or Vignac.
In Romania there is Vinars, a strong alcoholic beverage obtained by maturing wine distillates in oak barrels for 3-5-7 years, and in the Republic of Moldova, from the beginning of the 21st century it is called Divin, a drink made in accordance with the classical technology of cognac production.
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