Honestly, spirits aren’t really my wheelhouse. I’m a simple, wine-loving dude who rarely consumes spirits or cocktails. But, if I’m going to put some 40% ABV liquid into my gut, it’s likely going to be an Islay Scotch or a good Cognac. So, I’m taking a break from wine this week to focus on this historic spirit.
Cognac seems well-known to wine-loving crowds. North of Bordeaux, in the chalky soils near the Charente River, thousands of growers farm Ugni Blanc grapes to make Cocnac. Spreading out from the village of Cognac, there are six different crus: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires. “Fine Champagne” refers to a blend composed of at least 50% Grande Champagne, with some Petite Champagne.
Most Cognac is made from the Ugni Blanc grape (known as Trebbiano in Italy), but Folle Blanche (which dominated the pre-phylloxera period) and Colombard are also found. The grapes are usually harvested in September, and then they undergo some fermentation, resulting in a high-acid white wine with about 9% alcohol. Then, Cognac producers begin a double distillation process in unique Charentais copper pot stills.
This spirit (eau de vie) is then aged for at least two years before it can be called Cognac. Aging is always done in oak casks, and many producers have their own cooperage system. The period of aging is indicated by a series of letters on the label. V.S. indicates with the youngest spirit in the is at least two years old. V.S.O.P. requires at least four years of aging. And, as of 2018, X.O. now means the youngest spirit in the bend is at least 10 years old.
Over the summer, I dove into some different Cognacs for review, and my notes are below.
These spirits were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.
N.V. Frapin Cognac Grande Champagne V.S — France, Cognac, Grande Champagne Cognac
This has an airy, floral quality, with pear and orange blossom, some orange peel, but also caramel, honeyed tea and ginger snaps. Vibrant on the palate, smooth texture, a mix of baked pears and apples with cinnamon, floral potpourri, with honeycomb and spiced tea. Fresh, lighter style, but solid complexity for a VS. This estate has existed since 1270, and sources grapes from more than 1,200 acres of vineyards in Grande Champagne. (90 points IJB)
N.V. Bache-Gabrielsen Cognac 3 Kors V.S. — France, Cognac
A lively nose of apricot, yellow raisin, honey and white flowers. Smooth and fresh with apricots and apples, in has a lively, floral quality to it, blossoms, pineapple, dried ginger, and warm, honeyed tea. Smooth, fruity, floral and fresh. This estate was founded by a Norwegian Lieutenant in 1905, and the spirit is sourced from grapes in Fins Bois, Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne. (88 points IJB)
N.V. Merlet Cognac V.S.O.P. — France, Cognac
Nose is warm and inviting with quince paste, orange peel, honey, clover, ginger and graham notes. Plush texture, vibrant, with layers of fruit and nut flavors (candied orange peel, fig paste, dried apricot), and clove, honey and sweet caramel add complexity. Nicely balanced, no harsh edges at all, lots of warm, inviting but spicy elements. From vineyards in the crus of Borderies and Fins Bois. (90 points IJB)
N.V. A.E. Dor Cognac Rare Fine Champagne V.S.O.P. — France, Cognac, Fine Champagne Cognac
Aromas of warm caramel, yellow raisins, candied orange peel, with ginger, graham cracker and subtle smoky traces. Smooth and velvety on the palate, well-rounded and balanced. Flavors of yellow raisins, plum cake and candied orange peel mix well with vanilla, clove, coffee and smoky elements. Complex, elegant, smooth, lovely stuff. Sourced from Grande Champagne and Petit Champagne. (92 points IJB)
N.V. Prunier Grande Fine Champagne Cognac Family Reserve X.O. — France, Cognac, Grande Fine Champagne Cognac
Inviting nose of honey, sweet marmalade, along with ginger, clove and sweet…
Source : http://www.terroirist.com/2019/09/cognac-reviews/