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VS Cognac

VS Cognac, an abbreviation for "Very Special," represents a category in the cognac classification system, which is used to indicate the minimum age of the brandy contained within the bottle. Under the regulations governing cognac production, the VS designation requires that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend must have been aged in French oak barrels for at least two years. However, in practice, many producers go beyond this minimum, ageing their cognacs for longer to achieve a more complex profile.

Cognac itself is a type of brandy that must be produced in the Cognac region of France, following strict production methods and legal requirements. It's crafted from specific grape varieties, most notably Ugni Blanc, known for its high acidity and robust nature, which makes it ideal for distillation and ageing. The art of cognac production is steeped in tradition and expertise, involving double distillation in copper pot stills and ageing in oak barrels, which contribute to its unique flavour and aroma characteristics.

The VS cognac is typically characterised by fresh, vibrant, and fruity notes with a youthful edge. It embodies the exuberance of the grapes and the early influences of the oak. On the nose, one might detect the crisp sweetness of fresh grapes, the tang of green apples, and perhaps a hint of floral undertones reminiscent of the vine blooms. The wood's influence usually manifests subtly in this young cognac, offering whispers of vanilla and a light tannic structure that hints at what extended ageing might bring.

In terms of flavour, a VS cognac generally presents a lively profile. The palate is greeted with the bright acidity of orchard fruits and the sweetness of white grapes. There can also be a hint of spice and a warm, spirited finish due to its relatively young age. The body of a VS cognac is often lighter and less viscous than its older counterparts, making it an excellent choice for those who appreciate a more sprightly and refreshing brandy experience.

One of the most common ways to enjoy VS cognac is in cocktails. Its youthful vigour and expressive fruit notes make it an excellent base for a wide array of mixed drinks. The classic Sidecar, for example, harnesses the zest of VS cognac, the tang of lemon, and the sweetness of triple sec to create a balanced and invigorating drink. Likewise, the VS cognac can provide a robust foundation for a French Connection, mixed with amaretto to bring out a more nutty and warm profile.

While cocktails are a popular way to enjoy VS cognac, it's also quite versatile in other servings. It can be enjoyed neat, often as an aperitif, where its lighter, more approachable nature can stimulate the palate. Some may prefer it on the rocks, where the chill slightly mutes the alcohol's warmth and allows the fruit flavours to shine through. It is also occasionally paired with mixers like tonic or ginger ale, which complement its flavours without overpowering the delicate balance of the spirit.

The production of VS cognac is a careful balance of art and science. Master blenders at cognac houses have the task of selecting various eaux-de-vie to create a consistent house style for their VS cognac. This involves tasting and selecting from various barrels, considering the subtle differences imparted by the terroir of the vineyards, the distillation process, and the particularities of each ageing cellar.

The importance of terroir in cognac production cannot be overstated. The chalky soil of the Cognac region, coupled with its temperate maritime climate, creates an ideal environment for the cultivation of grapes suited for cognac production. The quality of these grapes and the subsequent eau-de-vie is critical to the finished product, even in a VS cognac, where the influence of the terroir must shine through despite the shorter ageing period.

While the VS classification is often seen as an entry point into the world of cognac, it is by no means a lesser product. Many cognac enthusiasts appreciate the freshness and vivacity of a VS cognac, particularly when seeking a spirit that is both reflective of the cognac tradition and suitable for a more casual, everyday enjoyment. It represents the beginning of the cognac journey, both for the eau-de-vie that may one day become part of an older blend and for the consumer discovering the pleasures of this storied spirit.

In the context of the broader cognac category, the VS designation serves as a signpost, indicating to consumers the style and profile they can expect from the bottle. It's a gateway to the more nuanced and mature XO (Extra Old) and Hors d'age cognacs, inviting enthusiasts to explore the journey of ageing and the profound effect it has on the spirit's character.

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