Break out your snifters every June 4th, and enjoy your favorite cognac to celebrate National Cognac Day.
Cognac is a French brandy distilled from white wine. It is exclusively made in the region surrounding Cognac, France, in six controlled geographic regions known as crus.
In addition to being distilled from grapes grown in a controlled geographic appellation, certain production methods must be followed in order for this brandy to carry the Cognac name. Here are the basics:
Cognac may only be made from nine grapes—the most popular is Ugni blanc, which also may be called Saint-Emilion or Trebbiano.
Cognac must be distilled twice in traditional Charentais copper alembic stills.
Cognac may not be distilled higher than 72% ABV.
Cognac must be aged for at least two years in Limousin oak casks.
Many cognac producers choose to age their Cognac beyond the minimum two years, resulting in four distinct “grades” of Cognac, which correspond to the age of the youngest brandy in the blend. V.S. (Very Special) meets the minimum two year aging requirement. V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) has been stored for at least four years in oak casks. XO (Extra Old), also sometimes called Napoléon, has historically been used to designate Cognac aged for at least six years—although the minimum age for XO was raised to 10 years in 2018. Moving forward, Napoléon will be used to designate six-year Cognacs, and XO will operate under its new 10-year definition. Finally, there is Hors d’âge (Beyond Age). Legally, Hors d’âge must only be aged for ten years, though the term is most frequently used to designate premium Cognacs that are aged far beyond the official scale.
Cognacs vary from one house to another, so try a few and see what you like best. For a great cognac at an affordable price point, we like the Hennessy VS—a $39 bottle which has taken home a Double Gold Medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. For something with a bit more age, try a Courvoisier 12 Year—a classic expression of aged cognac that won’t break the bank at $60. Feeling spendy? Try LOUIS XIII—the crown jewel of the Rémy Martin portfolio, which boasts a blend of Cognacs that have been aged from 40 to 100 years.
So this National Cognac Day, enjoy a pour of your favorite cognac, neat or on-the-rocks. Or mix things up with a Cognac Cocktail, Vieux Carré or French 75! À votre santé!
National Cognac Day is typically celebrated