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What Is Cognac Made From? (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on November 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

If you’re a whiskey fan and want to try a new liquor, you should get acquainted with a type of brandy called “Cognac.” Next to wine and whiskey, many drinkers prefer cognac due to its elegance and unique spice.

But what is cognac made from? Let’s find out. 

Cognac: What’s It Made From?

Cognac Bottles

Cognac is made from white grapes grown in Southwest France’s Cognac region. It is a twice-distilled white wine using copper pot stills and matured using French oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Also, the distillation season for the legendary French brandy usually begins in October and ends in March the following year, which is its annual five-month window. 

The key ingredient of cognac is white grapes, but not just any kind of white grape variety. Cognac uses three main types of white grapes: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche. 

3 Most Common Grape Varieties 

3 Most Common Grape Varieties 

1. Ugni Blanc

The Ugni Blanc variety is currently the largest single grape variety in the region’s vast wine-growing areas, with over 100,000 hectares of land under it.

This variety is ideal for farm and winery operations, with the winegrower producing up to 200 hectolitres of wine per hectare.

2. Colombard

Colombard Grapes

The Colombard grape variety is one of the oldest surviving Charente grapes. It’s a cross between Chenin Blanc and Gouais that was produced originally. Like the other two varieties, it has a low sugar but higher alcohol content. 

3. Folle Blanche

The Folle Blanche variety is a classic grape used in the production of Armagnac and cognac.

However, this grape is often overlooked compared to the Ugni Blanc variety in the Cognac region because it was one of the primary victims of the phylloxera crisis.

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Other Varieties Used In Making Cognac 

A glass of cognac with water

The three most commonly used grapes we mentioned above for making cognac should make up 90% of the spirit. However, the other 10% can come from the Charente region, and it includes:

  • Bouilleaud
  • Petit Noir
  • Le Jurancon
  • Balzac Blanc
  • Saint-Pierre
  • Balzac Noir
  • Blanc-Rame
  • Saint-Rabier

How Is Cognac Made? 

Cognac is made by harvesting grapes in the Cognac region, usually beginning in September.

After that, the grapes are pressed and fermented for several weeks before turning into wine. This process usually yields around 8.5% to 9.5% alcohol by volume. 

After being distilled twice, the resulting wine is put in copper pot stills and produces alcohol known as eau-de-vie.

After being aged in either oak barrels or limousin for at least two years, the spirit is then ready to be blended with other cognacs to create the final product. But how long does cognac last?

What Happens To The White Grapes? 

White Grapes for cognac

White grapes are planted and maintained to ensure that they can produce a high-quality Cognac. It usually takes four to five years for a new vine to produce enough grapes to make a good quality blend.

The harvesting process is traditionally carried out manually, though some believe that hand-harvesting adds to the quality of the product. 

Then after the harvest, the grapes are pressed, and the juice will undergo fermentation and distillation.

So, it results in cognacs after years of aging using French oak barrels. 

What’s Eau-De-Vie In Cognac? 

Eau-De-Vie in cognac is a blend made from wine’s double distillation process. It has less quantity and is more concentrated than the original wine. 

The eau-de-vie [1] is clear and has a great aroma. It’s also very sharp, with a taste that reminds us of the wine grapes harvested after the rain.

This is the end product of distillation, put into wooden casks to age. But is cognac really good for you?

FAQs 

Can cognac be made from red grapes?

No, cognac cannot be made from red grapes. Cognac must be made with white grapes, specifically the Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard grapes. 

Can you make cognac using white grapes outside France? 

No, you can’t use white grapes outside France. To be called a “Cognac,” grapes must be from the cognac region in France. 

In Summary

To sum up, cognac is made from white grapes grown in France’s southwest part – the Cognac region.

Mainly, the Folle Blanche, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc, as the leading variety, dominate cognac vineyards as they produce cognac’s floral flavors and aromas.

But, whichever variety of grape is used as long as grown in the Cognac region, this liquor must be aged in French oak barrels, primarily sourced from troncais and limousin, to be called a “Cognac.” 

If you haven’t tried drinking cognac, we suggest pairing it with a cigar, mixing it into a cocktail, icing it down, or drinking it neat.  

Reference: 

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/01/dining/eau-de-vie-fruit-s-essence-captured-in-a-bottle.html

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