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What Is White Cognac?

A bottle of cognac.
White congnac is not aged in barrels for as long as darker varieties.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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White cognac is a type of French brandy generally made by distilling white wine in oaken barrels. It is typically made in much the same way as other types of cognac, but is usually much lighter in color because it is not aged as long. Freshly distilled white cognac can be very strong, containing as much as 70 percent alcohol, though most distilleries dilute the brandy to about 40 percent alcohol. Though the distillation of cognac is a vital part of the history of the Cognac region of western France, white cognac is considered a creation of the modern era. It is said to be a refreshing beverage, with a fresh, fruity taste, best served cold or mixed in cocktails.

Cognac brandies are traditionally distilled in the Cognac region of France, about 289 miles (465 km) southwest of Paris, on the Atlantic coast. The region boasts of 15,000 vineyards, producing Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche, the three types of grapes commonly used to make cognac. These varieties of grape are generally very hardy, and they typically produce an acidic white wine that contains low levels of alcohol. The vineyards of the Cognac region are said to cover about 197,600 acres (80,000 hectares).

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Most cognacs are made by producing white wine from the grapes grown in the Cognac region. This wine often has an alcohol content of about seven percent. The wine is generally distilled twice, creating a strong, clear liquid that may be as much as 70 percent alcohol. This liquid is then aged in oak barrels, typically for at least two years, though usually much longer than that.

Cognac is believed to take its color from the barrels themselves, such that, the longer the liquor is aged in the barrels, the darker it can become. White cognac is therefore pale in color because it is not usually aged as long as darker varieties. While some varieties of fine cognac may be aged for a minimum of 50 years, and usually much longer, white cognac is often aged for a minimum of only 15 years.

The type of French brandy known as white cognac can be difficult to find. Hennessy may be the most popular distiller of white cognac, but Hennessy Pure White is often difficult to find outside of France. Prices for a bottle of Hennessy Pure White generally begin at about $40 US Dollars (USD), but can increase significantly depending on the buyer's location, the age of the bottle, and other factors.

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