Cognac has long since been heralded as the most revered spirit in the world and its reputation is second to none. It is interesting to learn that Cognac was one of the last regions in France to begin distilling; it was during the 17th century that Cognac production got underway in earnest.
The drink is produced in the town of Cognac to the very west of France, and it has had a recent surge in popularity and the famed Cognac houses - including Hennessy, Hine, Martell and Rémy Martin – have become household names.
Cognac is distilled from a selection of grape varietals, with Ugni Blanc being the most popular. The first step is to press and ferment the grapes to make wine. It is worth mentioning that good Cognac grapes and good wine grapes are two separate entities, for different qualities are required. Cognac grapes do not tend to make for good wine, because they are rather bitter and acidic, thus a good year for wine may not be such for Cognac.
The wine is twice distilled - as opposed to Armagnac which undergoes a single distillation – before the spirit is matured for at least two years (two and a half years for VS Cognac, four and a half years for VSOP Cognac, six years for XO Cognac, and even longer for Prestige Cognac) in oak barrels. There are regional distinctions within Cognac and most houses usually blend grapes from multiple sub-regions within the Cognac area. The regions are ringed around the town, and the most central regions are the most venerated. The premier cru is Grand Champagne, so named for the nature of its soils.