What to drink this week
Keep a stiff upper lip with a fine bottle of brandy, recommends Harry Eyres
I don’t know how your mood is after the Brexit vote, but if you’re feeling more in need of something to stiffen the sinews in the face of uncertainty than either a Faragian pint or a brashly celebratory bubbly, then I might have the requisite tipple. ‘Claret is the liquor for boys,’ wrote Samuel Johnson, ‘port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.’ I imagine the brandy he had in mind was Cognac, which, at its best, combines strength with extraordinary finesse.
Why you should be drinking it
Cognac may be the least known of the great French wine areas, I was reflecting after two recent short visits. Yes, I did write ‘wine’. Brandy is concentrated wine and there is increasing recognition in this large region, dominated by a few big houses, that the quality of the wine is paramount in making the finest brandies. Traditionally blended from different vineyards and years, Cognac is moving towards greater precision and definition.
What to drink
An exciting new development is Domaine de Bonneuil from the small boutique house of Hine. This is singlevineyard, single-vintage Cognac, from the heart of the best sub-region, Grande Champagne, and is strikingly delicate, pure and precise. The first two vintages, 2005 (£80; www. bbr.com) and 2006 (£83.90; www. hedonism.co.uk) have recently come on-stream: I marginally prefer the slightly fuller, more complex 2006 to the super-fine 2005. Even more exquisite, if you can find them, are Hine’s famous Early-landed vintage Cognacs matured in Bristol (£ 325 for the 1983, right; www.bbr. com).