Comte Joseph (France / Cognac)

Veuve Pasquinet (France / Cognac)

Cognac , named after the town of Cognac in France, is a famous variety of brandy. It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name, in the French Departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. As an Appellation d'origine contrôlée, in order to bear the name Cognac, the production methods for the distilled brandy must meet specified legal requirements. It must be made from certain grapes It must be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement, because cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine when aged in a barrel.
The official quality grades of cognac are the following:
V.S.  -very special or superior designates a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years in cask.
V.S.O.P. - very special or superior old pale designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask, but the average wood age is much greater.
XO - extra old designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years but on average for upwards of 20 years.
In addition the following grades can be mentioned:
Napoleon - is a grade equal to XO in terms of minimum age, but it is generally marketed in-between VSOP and XO in the product range offered by the producers.
Extra - designates a minimum of 6 years of age, this grade is usually older than a Napoleon or an XO.
Vieux - is another grade between the official grades of VSOP and XO.
Hors d'âge - ("beyond age") is a designation which is equal to XO, but in practice the term is used by producers to market a high-quality product beyond the official age scale.
The place where the grapes were grown can also be used to define the cognac, and give a guide to some of the flavor characteristics of the cognac:
Grande Champagne - eaux de vie are long in the mouth and powerful, dominated by floral notes. "Champagne" derives from the Roman "Campania" meaning Plain, but is often explained with similarity in soil with the Champagne area at Reims.
Petite Champagne - eaux de vie have similar characteristics to those from Grande Champagne but are in general shorter on the palate.   
Borderies - eaux de vie from the Borderies are the most distinctive, with nutty aromas and flavor, as well as a distinct violet or iris characteristic.
Fins Bois - Heavier and faster aging eaux de vie ideal for establishing the base of some blended cognacs. Fins Bois is rounded and fruity, with oiliness.
Bois Ordinaires - Further out from the four central growth areas are the Bons Bois and the Bois Ordinaires grown regions. With a poorer soil and very much influenced by the maritime climate, this area of 20,000 hectares produces eaux de vie that are less demonstrative and age more quickly.