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Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing region in the Departements of Charente and Charente-Maritime.

Cognac production falls under French Appellation d'origine contrôlée designation, with production methods and naming required to meet certain legal requirements. Among the specified grapes Ugni blanc, known locally as Saint-Emilion, is most widely used. The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine barrel age, and most cognacs spend considerably longer "on the wood" than the minimum legal requirement.

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According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BINC), the official quality grades of cognac are the following:

  • V.S. (Very Special) or ✯✯✯ (three stars) designates a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years in cask.
  • V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) or Reserve designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask.
  • XO (Extra Old) or Napoléon currently designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years.[10] The minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an
  • XO blend will be increased to ten years in April 2018; this rule was originally scheduled for implementation in 2016 but was postponed due to inadequate stocks. The Napoleon designation, previously unofficial, will then be used to specifically denote those blends with a minimum age of six years that do not meet the revised XO definition.
  • Hors d'âge (Beyond Age) is a designation which BNIC states 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 names of the grades are in English because the historical cognac trade, particularly in the 18th century, significantly involved the British.

Cognac is also classified by crus, tightly defined geographic denominations where the grapes are grown. Their distinctive soils and microclimates produce eaux de vie with characteristics particular to their specific location.

  • Grande Champagne (13,766 hectares (34,020 acres)) The soils in Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne are characterized as shallow clay-limestone, over limestone and chalk.
  • Petite Champagne (16,171 hectares (39,960 acres)) Petite Champagne eaux de vie have similar characteristics to those from Grande Champagne. Cognacs made from a mixture of Grande and Petite Champagne eaux de vie (with at least 50% Grande Champagne) may be marketed as "Fine Champagne".
  • Borderies (4,160 hectares (10,300 acres)) The smallest cru. This denomination's soil contains clay and flint stones resulting from the decomposition of limestone.
  • Fins Bois (34,265 hectares (84,670 acres)) Heavier and faster aging eaux de vie ideal for establishing the base of some blended cognacs. The soils here are predominantly red clay-limestone and very stony, or otherwise heavy clay soils.
  • Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires (together 19,979 hectares (49,370 acres)). Further out from the four central growth areas are these two growing regions. With a poorer soil and very much influenced by the maritime climate, this area is 20,000 hectares.
  • Bois à terroirs The soils of Les Bois (Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires, and Bois à terroirs) are sandy, spanning coastal areas and some valleys.

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Hennessy Remy Martin De Luze Martell Camus
A de Fussigny Courvoisier Meukow

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