Basics of Brandy

Brandy is a generic term for a spirit distilled from the juice, fruit, and pulp of any kind of fruit. It can be produced anywhere in the world. The name is from the Dutch brandewijn (“burnt wine “), and the creation of brandy was due almost entirely to the Dutch.

Dutch demand for supplies of brandy meant the French were obliged to change the way they shipped wine to Holland to be used as raw material in the distilleries, called wijnbranders (“wineburners”). Distilled spirit was cheaper than wine to ship, so the French began to use the technique, and equipment, introduced by the Dutch for distillation, particularly in the Charente region.

What we call brandy now is made from grapes that are distilled, aged in oak barrels, and transferred to glass jars after maturation. A two- to three-year-old brandy is young; ten to 15 years old is good. Forty to 60 years old is of excellent quality.

Countries that produce brandy include Armenia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, Spain (the largest consumer of brandy in the world) , and the United States.

Two-thirds of the brandy for the American market comes from California. Over the past decade, a few small producers have been using cognac-style methods to make more exclusive and aromatic brandies for sipping after dinner. South American brandy comes from Chile and is called pisco. It is made from Muscat grapes that are distilled and then aged in oak or in clay jars. A Pisco Sour cocktail is made only with this brandy.


Also called pomace brandy, these are regarded as “poor man ‘ s brandies” and are drunk as digestifs. The most well-known mares, produced in France, are marc de Champagne (a delicate flavor) and marc de Bourgogne (aromatic and strong) . Grappa is produced in Italy and is not aged as such, but some brands may have been matured in wooden casks for between two to four years. Both types of brandy are made from the remaining skins, husks, and stems of grapes that have been pressed to make wine.


Brandy from the Charente-Martime area in France is known as cognac. Grapes
are grown in six regions:

  • Grande Champagne
  • Petite Champagne
  • Les Borderies
  • Fins Bois
  • Bons Bois
  • Bois Ordinaires

The grapes used are

  • Ugni Blanc
  • FolIe
  • Blanche
  • Colombard.

Maturation must take place in a Jaune d ‘Or and only in oak casks from the Limousin or Troncais forests. The minimum period it must be in the cask is 30 months. Cognac is a blend of cognacs from different houses and vintages. Details on the label refer to the number of years the youngest cognac has been in the cask.

The following are the official cognac aging guidelines:

  • ***Three Star/V.S. the youngest eau-de-vie is four-and-a-half years old.
  • V.S.D.P. or V.D. Very Special (or Superior) Old Pale the youngest is four-and-a-half to six years old.
  • Napoleon, Grande Reserve, X.D., and Extra Vieille the youngest is six-and-a-half years old.

How to use Brandy?

  • Serve both marc and grappa at room temperature in a balloon glass after
    dinner. A measure is about 1 7!Joz (Scl) .
  • Almost all bars and restaurants serve brandy and cognac in a balloon glass.
  • The makers of cognac, and connoisseurs, prefer to serve it in a tulip-shaped
    glass. Quarter-fill a glass, leaving space for the aroma to be released by the
    warmth of your hand.
  • Sip a cognac to experience the many flavors found in the finest cognacs.
  • Always chill a cocktail glass in the freezer before use.

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