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What Is Champagne Cognac?

A bottle of cognac.
Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages may lead to high blood pressure.
Congnac must be aged for at least two years in oak barrels.
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  • Written By: John Markley
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2015
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Champagne cognac is a type of brandy made from grapes. Like other types of cognac, it is produced by a double-distillation process from white grapes grown in the Cognac region of western France. Champagne cognac refers specifically to cognacs from Grande Champagne or Petite Champagne, two of the Cognac region's six zones. It is commonly regarded as the finest form of cognac due to the quality of the soil in these areas. It is unrelated to the French sparkling wine called champagne, which is produced in the Champagne region of northeastern France.

The soil of the Cognac region is very chalky, and higher chalk levels in the soil tend to produce better grapes for distillation into brandy. The soil in the Grande Champagne area has the highest chalk levels, followed by Petite Champagne. Thus the finest cognacs are usually made from grapes grown in these areas, especially the former.

These grapes are harvested, pressed, and fermented. This results in wine that tends to be ill-suited to drinking by itself but very good for distillation. After a few weeks of fermentation, this wine is distilled twice in a specially shaped copper still. This process produces a distilled spirit called eau-de-vie, which is about 70-percent alcohol. For a brandy to be called Champagne cognac, at least 90 percent of it must come from eaux-de-vie made from Columbard, Ugni Blanc (also commonly called Trebbiano), or Folle Blanche grapes, with any remainder coming from other designated varieties of white grapes.

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Each eau-de-vie is aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of two years, though most cognacs are aged longer, and some fine cognacs are aged for decades. The wood used in the barrels is an important influence on the taste of the final product. Several different aged eaux-de-vie, each with its own characteristics, are then carefully blended to create the final product. These eaux-de-vie are usually of different ages and in some cases come from different areas, with the age of the cognac dated according to the age of its youngest constituent.

The brandy produced as a result is called Grand Champagne or Petite Champagne cognac, according to its region of origin. A blend made with grapes from both regions is referred to as fine Champagne cognac, provided at least 50 percent of its constituent eaux-de-vie by volume is from Grand Champagne. Like wine and whiskey, cognac matures with age due to chemical processes that occur while it is stored in barrels, so older cognacs tend to be superior. The maturation process of liquor stops once it is removed from its barrel and bottled, so a cognac's age refers to the amount of time it spent maturing rather than its year of origin.

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Vincenzo
Post 3

@Logicfest -- Things are even more complicated than that. Through the distillation and aging process, a lot of sugars and such that define what wine is get lost. Once you add water back to that cognac, it will taste nothing like the wine from which it was distilled.

Too much is lost and added through distillation and aging. Once you have brandy, you will never turn it back into what we think of as wine.

Logicfest
Post 2

@Melonlity -- You wouldn't want to rehydrate that cognac. That is because brandy becomes something else completely when you store it and age it in wooden barrels. People avoided adding water back to brandy because they liked the taste of distilled and aged brandy better than the wine it could become.

If you rehydrate it, then, you lose a lot of that characteristics that make champagne cognac such a desirable drink. Heck, it would be like adding a bunch of water to a single malt Scotch. There are just some things you should not do.

Melonlity
Post 1

Here is something a lot of people don't know. Brandy was discovered almost on accident (that is relevant to this discussion because cognac is simply a form of brandy). Brandy is nothing more than distilled wine. It was distilled because removing the water from wine made it easier to transport and, perhaps, avoided some taxation.

The notion was that one could simply add water before drinking the brandy and effectively rehydrate wine. Some people liked the taste of brandy better, however, and the original plan of rehydrating didn't work that well.

But, isn't it nice to know you could convert that bottle of cognac into several glasses of wine? And if you are dealing with champagne cognac, you would have several great glasses of wine.

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