The cul­ture of Cognac

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODEATING -

COGNAC is a brandy made from white grapes grown in a re­gion sur­round­ing the French town of the same name. Here are some facts about cognac and the four main brands: Hen­nessy, Remy Martin, Martell and Cour­voisier. The Cognac re­gion has had vine­yards since Ro­man times, but it was 16th cen­tury Dutch traders who be­gan to dis­til the wine into brandy so it would sur­vive long sea jour­neys. The Cognac Ap­pel­la­tion d’orig­ine Con­trôlée is strictly reg­u­lated, dic­tat­ing the six grow­ing ar­eas, grape va­ri­eties, dis­til­la­tion and age­ing. Dis­til­la­tion must fin­ish by March 31 fol­low­ing a har­vest and the re­sult­ing “eau de vie” must be aged for at least two years in oak casks. Co­gnacs of­ten blend dozens of eaux de vie. The main cat­e­gories are VS, VSOP and XO – “Very Spe­cial,” “Very Su­pe­rior Old Pale” and “Ex­tra Old”. In a bot­tle of VS, the youngest eau de vie will have been aged for two years, while for XO it will be at least six years. Louis XIII de Remy Martin, a lux­ury blend of up to 1 200 eaux de vie which takes over 100 years to make, can cost about $3 000 (R42 000). The brand just made a film star­ing John Malkovich that will be stored for 100 years; 1 000 guests will be given in­vi­ta­tions to pass on to their de­scen­dants to at­tend its “pre­miere” in Novem­ber 2115. 98 per­cent of all cognac is ex­ported. Largest mar­kets by vol­ume are the US, China, Bri­tain, Rus­sia and Ger­many. Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try body, the Bureau Na­tional In­ter­pro­fes­sion­nel du Cognac, the in­dus­try shipped 155 mil­lion bot­tles last year, worth

2.13 bil­lion (R31.5bn). Hen­nessy, the lead­ing brand, has a seven-mem­ber tast­ing com­mit­tee, plus a Mas­ter Blen­der, that meets ev­ery day and tastes up to fifty eaux de vie. Mas­ter Blen­der Yann Fil­lioux is the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to serve in the role. – Reuters

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