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A Guide To "The Healing Drink" : Cognac

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A Guide To "The Healing Drink" : Cognac Powered By Docstoc
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What Am I Reading Here?
Everything that will give you information related to cognac, the world's finest drink also known as the healing drink.

Contents
Making Of Cognac A Guide to Drinking Cognac Quick Cognac Facts Brief History : Cognac and Hip Hop Quick Facts : Cognac and Health A Tale of Sister Cities : The Cognac Crisis Cognac Label Collection The Cognac Dictionary Determining The Value of a Cognac Cognac Aroma Wheel

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The Making Of Cognac

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It takes only 5 steps to produce the world’s finest drink but it takes years and in some case more than 20-30 years for it to be ready for consumption. The 5 steps are listed below which we will elaborate in a bit. 1. Harvesting 2. Winemaking 3. Distillation 4. Ageing 5. Assembly Now let’s get a little deeper into each steps.

Harvesting
It all starts in the Cognac Delimited Region which comprises of about 6,200 vineyards that produce Charentes white wine used in the production of Cognac. Usually the vines are planted 3 meters apart and pruning is permitted. Many harvesters still continue to harvest by hands and some make use of machinaries that have existed for only about 30 years or so. When the grapes are perfectly riped harvesting can begin. The harvesting usually starts in October and ends the same month towards the end.

Winemaking
After harvesting the next process is winemaking. Grapes are immediately pressed after harvesting. The juice from the grapes is left to ferment and the sugars are transformed into alcohol. Keep in mind that cognac is free of additives and as a result no sugar is added. The sugar that transforms into alcohol is natural. This process is monitored very closely. After about 5 to 7 days since the beginning of fermentation the wines contain 9% alcohol. This is when cognac making process moves to the next step which is distillation. At this point low alcohol content and high acidity makes it perfect for distillation.

Distillation
After the fermentation the next step is distillation. Cognac unlike other alcoholic drinks goes through double distillation. There is a legend surrounding the double distillation which is assumed to be the reason why double distillation is carried out. The story goes like this : Once when Knight Jacques de la Croix-Maron was sleeping he had a nightmare. The satan was trying to take his soul by boiling. The satan didn’t succeed with his first try so threatened to boil again in order to capture Knight Jacques’ soul. At this point the Knight woke up and thought of double distilling his wine for better taste,color and to distinct his product from other wines. First and second distillation is described below and what effect it has in the overall product. First distillation  As soon as the wine has fermented, it is poured into pot stills enclosed in brick kilns. Each still holds approximately 660 gallons, or the equivalent of 3,000 bottles. The kilns are heated to a temperature range between 173°F (78.3°C) and 212°F (100°C) until the alcohol vaporizes and separates from the rest of the liquid.  The vapors are collected in the cowl and the swan’s neck of the still. They then pass into the Visit www.cognac.com for more or follow @cognac on twitter

serpentine-like condenser coil. The condensed liquid, called “broullis,” is reduced one-third from the original amount and measures about 30% alcohol by volume. Second distillation  The broullis is heated a second time in a process known as “bonnechauffe.” This is a exacting process because the distiller has to decide at what moment to isolate what is known as the “heart” of the liquid, to separate it from the “head” and “tails.” The head portion is too high in alcohol content while the tail is lacking in substance. These portions are redistilled several times and used in blending.  The remaining liquid is the clear “eaude vie.” It has been reduced by an additional one-third and is 70% alcohol by volume. This significant reduction in volume means that the distillation of cognac is a costly operation. It takes 9 liters of wine to make one liter of cognac. The amount of spirit that is lost to vaporization (known as “the angels’ share”) can equal more than 20 million bottles annually.

Ageing
One main thing that separates cognac from many other alcohol besides double distillation process is the ageing. Distilled wine is aged from anywhere between 2 years to more than a decade. In some cases the final product (cognac) is aged for 20 or more years. Due to the ageing process sometimes the person who stores these cognac into oak casks may not even be able to see it when it comes out since the ageing process can last longer than the person’s life itself. The distilled wine is stored in oak casks in cellars. The natural humidity level of cellars is one of the influencing factors in the ageing of the spirit. During the ageing process cognac loses 3%-4% of it’s volume every year. The evaporation of spirit is known as “the angel’s share” and it is estimated that it is equivalent to 27 million bottles per year. That is 27 million bottles of cognac is evaporated during the ageing process. Although this is a loss it is a much needed step in the making of cognac.

Assembly
The quality of cognac depends as much on assembly as in any other steps during the cognac making process. Cognac making itself is an assembly of different vines and ages. The assembly is done in several steps that are spread throughout the entire ageing process. Cellar masters are people who make decisions whether or not a cognac is ready for distribution along with other major decision related to the fineness of cognac. It is often said that the reputation of a cognac house is directly related to their cellar masters. These experienced professionals do not use any instrument or machinery to judge the quality of cognac. It is simply done by tasting and smelling the cognac and even then almost each time cellar masters decisions are almost accurate.

Quick summary : 1. Grape juice is fermented naturally and no sulfur dioxide or sugar is added. 2. Once the wine is fermented it is poured into pot still in brick kilns which are heated between between 173°F (78.3°C) and 212°F (100°C) until the alcohol vaporizes and Visit www.cognac.com for more or follow @cognac on twitter

separates from the rest of the liquid. 3. The condensed liquid is heated a second time which is known as “bonnechauffe.” The remaining liquid is the clear “eaude vie.” It has been reduced by an additional one-third and is 70% alcohol by volume. 4. The spirit is then stored in oak casks for many years depending on the taste and tanning that is desired. 5. The last step is the bottling and or assembly. During this process cellar masters analyze the taste and other aspects of cognac before it goes for bottling.

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Quick Guide To Drinking Cognac

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6 Steps to drinking cognac right
1. The first and one of the most important thing when it comes to drinking cognac is to select a proper glass. A Tulip-Shaped wine glass is an ideal choice or a snifter. A snifter is a glass that has a wide bottom and a narrow top which is mostly used to serve brandy. The reason snifter is ideal while drinking cognac is because the narrow top of the snifter will help trap the aroma of cognac inside the glass so you can enjoy each sip. There are quite expensive snifters out there but an inexpensive one will do the trick as well. If you would like to see what they look like or where you can purchase one, please follow this link which will take you to google results page : Buy Snifter . 2. Now that you have the proper glass its time to get the aged cognac age a little bit more on your hands. Most people pour cognac and start drinking it immediately which is a wrong approach to drinking cognac. To truly enjoy the taste of cognac pour a small amount, preferably 20-25 ML into the snifter and hold the glass for about 6-10 minutes. This allows the cognac to warm slowly and aroma stays in whereas if you start sipping right away it evaporates the aroma. 3. If you buy cognac yourself you can certainly tell how long it has been aged. But if you are served cognac at a party or a gathering you might not know how long it has been aged. There is a simple trick to it. Once you have warmed the cognac, take a look at it and you should be able to tell the age of cognac by looking at the color (not exactly but pretty close). Lighter colors usually symbolize that the cognac you are holding isn’t aged for too long where as stronger colors such as amber, gold and red suggests that the cognac has been aged longer. 4. Now its time to smell it. (You are probably thinking why go through all this when you can simply pour it and start drinking but if you truly want to enjoy one please do follow the procedure.) Now that you are able to tell the age of the cognac you are holding its time to smell the aroma that the snifter has been holding in for you. Life up the snifter slowly close to your nose and smell the aroma which is generally known as “montant odors” (however we prefer using the word “aroma” instead of “odor,” but thats our personal preference ). 5. Now slowly bring the snifter down and swirl the cognac in the snifter. This will help you unleash any aroma that has been trapped and bring the snifter up and smell once again. You will most probably find the smell to be a little stronger than before. Usually cognac has fruit or floral aromas such as rose, pear, cherry, apricot, plum, fig, quince, grapefruit, etc. 6. Now you are ready to take the first sip of the cognac that you have been eagerly waiting for. Make sure to take a small sip and let it slowly pass over the palate. If it is a younger cognac you will feel that the taste is much stronger whereas older cognacs are much smoother and warmer. Once you develop the taste for cognac you will be able to tell what kind it is with your very first sip.

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Cognac Facts

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15 Quick Cognac Facts
1. Americans drink more cognac than any other nation 2. Although most people like cognac straight, 70-80% of all cognac ends up in cocktails 3. 20 million bottles of cognac is evaporated each year which is also known as “angel’s share” 4. About 85% of the total cognac market is taken by Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell, and Courvoisier 5. Courvoisier is the only one that doesn’t own any vineyards. Hennessy(440 acres), Rémy Martin(494 acres) and Martell(1000 acres) own vineyards. 6. Folignan, a cross of Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche was authorized for use in Cognac production in 2005 7. Busta Rhyme’s song “Pass the Courvoisier” helped boost cognac’s reputation 8. It is estimated that the African America constitute about 60-80% of American cognac market 9. Cognac sales increased to approx. $1 Billion in America in 2003 with the hip hop’s entry 10. 95% of Cognac produced is exported out of France

11. The stocks of eau-de-vie de Cognac represent close to 3.2 million hectoliters of pure alcohol 12. In 2007/2008 US imported 51.7 Million bottles which shows a significant growth compared to 25.7 million bottles in 1990/1991 13. Singapore is the second largest importer of cognac with 20.5 million bottles in 2007/2008 14. Cognac Enterprise consists of 17,300 active people which accounts for over 50% of the active general agricultural population in France 15. There are over 6,400 wine growers in the Delimited Region that are dedicated to cognac production

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Cognac & Hip Hop

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African Americans comprise anywhere between 60%-80% of the total American Cognac Market. In 2007-2008 America imported 51.7 million bottles so even if 60% of that was consumed by African Americans thats a whopping 31.2 million bottles of cognac. Since the American cognac market is dominated by African Americans we thought we would talk a little a brief history of cognac and hiphop. One of the reason cognac has become a popular drink among African Americans is due to celebrity influence. Busta Rhyme’s “Pass The Courvoisier” might as well be called the turning point of cognac market in America. Cognac, also known as “yak” by the African American cognac crowd has certainly become one of the favorite drinks. Following Busta Rhymes song cognac has then been a major attraction among hip hop stars and their fans. Hip-hop is often regarded as the savior of cognac. In the late 90s the town of Cognac in France was almost in ruin due to economic crisis and plummeting liquor consumption in its then no.1 market, Asia. Today U.S. is the no.1 market for cognac consumption and hip-hop has quite a big hand in it. The hiphop Mogul Jay Z says “Cognac is a classy, sophisticated and really smooth thing to drink,” whose favorite brand is Remy Martin. Although most cognac drinkers like to think that cognac has been embraced by African America crowd after its inclusion in hip-hop songs, that is not entirely true. Cognac has been favored by affluent African Americans since the 70s but popular rap celebrities talking about it certainly gave it a boost that was much needed. One of the reason more people have opened up to cognac is because it has now been an ok thing to mix cognac with other drinks. Although we personally prefer cognac straight in a snifter we are all up for mixed cognac drinks. Everyone has their own taste and however they want to enjoy a sip of cognac is up to them. One of the most talked about cognac brands in hip-hop songs in Hennessy which is also known as “Henny,” “Henn-dog,” etc. among many other names.

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Cognac & Health

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Quick facts on Cognac and Health
1. Cognac is rich in polyphenol which occur naturally in grapes. 2. Cognac is a pure product. It is low in natural sugar and is free of any other additives. 3. The older cognac such as XO cognac are considered to have great health benefits since they are aged in oak barrels for many years. The ripening in the oak barrel helps cognac achieve its health benefits as well. Some constituents found in oak barrels such as ellagic acid can have a significant antioxidant effect. 4. If you ever get a cold, forget taking pills. Cognac helps widen blood vessels and relieves headaches. 5. If you drink cognac regularly (around 15 ml a day), it is said to protect you against heart diseases.

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Cognac Crisis

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One of the major Cognac crisis in the history of cognac was during 1870’s. A virus, phylloxera, attacked the roots of the vine which destroyed the entire plant. This virus spread fast and covered a wide range of the vineyards. The wine consumption and the land value plummeted drastically. It is estimated that during that time a 247 acres of land was worth 7,000 French Francs, after the virus started destroying the vines it is said that the same 247 acres of land was worth only 600 French Francs. French farmers and producers tried everything to get this virus under control by planting toads on the vine roots and some even by urinating on the vines. The virus was spreading fast and with it the France economy was going downhill. This is when Denison, Texas came to the rescue. Pierre Viala, a French scientists traveled to Denison, Texas in 1888 where he found a long term cure to this devastating virus. Pierre Viala and an American scientist, Thomas Volney Munson worked on the problem for days in Denison and other regions in Texas. The soils of the Charante and Denison are very similar which made it easier to find the solution. Munson suggested that the only way to save the French vineyards was to use the vines from Texas as hosts for grafting. For his contribution T.V. Munson was awarded the highest award that could be given to a foreign national, the Chevalier du Merit Agricule.

100 years later, a Centennial Celebration was held in both Cognac and Denison and identical plaques were given to each city. In October of 1992, a delegation from Denison, Texas went to Cognac, France and the Sister City Relationship between two cities was established in a formal ceremony. And that is how a virus became the cause of a relationship between Denison, Texas and Cognac, France.

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Cognac Label Collection

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On our last post we embedded a guide on reading cognac labels. After publishing that post we went on a little hunt on the web to see if we could find a collection of labels. Our first stop was Cognac Museums from around the world (we will cover cognac museums on a separate post) but there wasn’t much to find or see. When we were about to give up hope we stumbled across a site that can very well be called a gold mine, well, at least to cognac lovers. The site belongs to a man who has collected over 15,000 labels and some date back to the 1800s. The last 24 hours or so has been nothing but pure joy and excitement as we went through some of the oldest cognac labels. Of course, we haven’t finished watching them all, not yet. Please take a look at a few samples that we managed to grab from the site .

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Visit www.cognac.com for more or follow @cognac on twitter

The man behind this collection is Paul Ronne. Here at cognac.com, we like to educate others about cognac, the history and culture that surrounds it. It’s people like Paul Ronne who help us make our dream come true with their passion and generosity in sharing their collections. Please take a minute (if you are a cognac fan, couple days) and visit Paul’s site which houses a collection of 15,000 plus cognac labels and more.

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The Cognac Dictionary

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1. Angel’s Share : Around four percent of the volume of cognac in storage per year evaporates through the pores of oak barrels. This is known as Angel’s Share. 2. BNIC : Abbreviation for Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac. This is a professional association that makes sure that the cognac production follows the laws that have been set forward. 3. Assemblage : Assemblage is the term given for the blending of cognac from different origins and ages. 4. Cognac : Cognac is actually the name of the town from where this famous brandy comes from. Cognac (drink) got its name from the town of Cognac in France. 5. Brouillis : Cognac is distilled twice. The result of first distillation is known as Brouillis which is approximately 27 to 30 percent alcohol. 6. Crus : Cognac can be only produced in certain regions by law. These growing regions are known as Crus. 7. Eau-de-Vie : It is the distillate that is placed in oak barrels to age cognac after the second distillation. 8. Grand Champagne : The best cognac comes from this region. 9. Petite Champagne : This the second highest rated cognac region after the Grand Champagne. 10. Borderies : This is the smalles growing region 11. Fins Bois : This is the fourth best growing region for the production of cognac. 12. Bon Bois : The fifth best growing region. The cognac produced here are spicier as compared to cognacs produced from other regions. 13. Borderies : The smallest growing region. 14. VS : Stands for Very Special. VS cognac is stored for at least two years 15. VSOP : Stands for Very Special Old Pale. VSOP cognacs are stored for at least four years 16. XO : Stands for Extra Old. The cognac in this category is stored for at least six years but usually the average is around twenty years. 17. Napoleon : BNIC states that this is equal to the XO quality, meaning it is aged for Visit www.cognac.com for more or follow @cognac on twitter

at least six years. 18. Tannin : The tanning acid which helps cognac get its color and structure during the aging process. 19. Ugni Blanc : Also known as trebbiano in Europe, Ugni Blanc is a grape variety from which approximately ninety percent of cognac is made. 20. Chais : The storerooms where the cognacs are left to age and mature is known as Chais.

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Determining The Value of Cognac

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Contact The Company
If you have a bottle of cognac that has been sitting for quite a while and would like to find the value of it, the first thing to do would be to contact the company that markets that particular brand. Most cognac brands have a presence online and their contact information can be found easily. This is the first step if you are trying to find what the bottle of cognac is worth. If for any reason you can’t find the company information, we are here to help. Send us as much information on the bottle you have and we will do the research for you.

Bottled Cognac Doesn’t Age
Most people save a bottle of cognac for years thinking that it will be worth more which unfortunately isn’t true. A cognac aged for 4 years and bottled still is a cognac that is aged for 4 years whether it is from 2005 or 1980. Aging which is also known as “liberation of tannins” is an interaction between spirit and alcohol. Once the cognac is bottled, it no longer ages. The key is to find how long the cognac has been aged in the barrel and not the bottle. You should be able to find this information on the label that comes with each and every bottle of cognac.

Carefully Read The Label
The label on a cognac bottle is like a window showing the details of that particular cognac. If you are unable to read the cognac label due to language barrier you can use google translator to translate into english or any other language you are comfortable reading. Reading cognac label requires some knowledge. Here is a guide to reading cognac label for you to better understand how to read cognac label to determine the value of cognac.

Look at The Color
Although it might be hard to tell the color of cognac while it’s still in the bottle, you can get a fair estimate of how old the cognac is and hopefully gain some idea on what the value is. Lighter colors usually symbolize cognac that isn’t aged for too long where as stronger colors such as amber, gold and red suggests that the cognac has been aged longer. The key here is to determine the color of the cognac to find it’s age, as the value of cognac usually depends on how long it has been aged. Once again, remember cognac doesn’t age in the bottle.

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Cognac Aroma Wheel

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A workshop led by Jean Lenoir who created “Le Nez du Vin,” which provides you with words you need to describe wine has now created a cognac aroma wheel. The cognac aroma wheel differs from the past ones as it categorizes cognac aromas by season. The wheel was developed during the Second International Cognac Summt organized by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofesionel du Cognac). During the workshop over 100 fine cognacs were tasted using the tulip shaped glass which is now considered to be the best for tasting cognac as opposed to the balloon shaped glass. The result was 5,000 different tasting notes and after analysis 63 aromas were revealed in the final list. Among these aromas the five distinct aromas to define cognac aroma were found to be vanilla, prune, caramel, orange and apricot. Why cognac aroma wheel is categorized by season? According to Jérôme Durand, Director of Marketing and Communications at the BNIC, Not only do Cognac styles range from fresh and light to rich and deep, one’s appreciation of any Cognac will be different in different circumstances. It seemed to us that as the Aroma Wheel is designed to help consumers better understand and appreciate Cognac’s complex flavours and aromas, and help professional such as sommeliers and educators guide the public in this, it would be a good idea to link it to something like the seasons, which everybody can relate to. Cognac’s palette of flavours fits the seasonal cycle perfectly, reflecting its aromatic richness.

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Visit www.cognac.com for more or follow @cognac on twitter

For more information on cognac and other alcohol related facts be sure to visit www.cognac.com

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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: A guide to cognac also known as "the healing drink"