Cognac is a grape-based spirit part of the generic spirits called brandy, but it is produced exclusively in the Cognac region of France, using highly regulated and controlled methods of production under the “Cognac Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”.
The base for Cognac is called an ‘eau-de-vie’. It is a double distilled white wine. This distillation produces a colourless spirit of around 70% abv, which must be aged for at least two years before it can be sold. Bottled cognacs are 40% abv, and most cognacs are blends of different ‘eaux-de-vie’ and/or cognacs to enhance complexity.
The age of the Cognac is calculated as that of the youngest blend in the cognac.
Cognac is graded as VS for Very Special – where the youngest cognac is stored at least two years in oak barrel; VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), where the youngest cognac is at least four years old, and XO (Extra Old), where the youngest cognac is at least six years old.