How Do I Choose the Best Vintage Cognac?

Janis Adams

Cognac is brandy made from grapes grown in the French Charente in a district known as Cognac. Vintage cognac is a combination of different cognacs which are then distilled together. When choosing one, it is important to recognize that to be considered a true vintage cognac, the grapes used to make each specific bottle must all be harvested during the same year. It's also important to know which type of vintage cognac you are buying.

A bottle of cognac.
A bottle of cognac.

There are two distinctly different types of this vintage liquor. It is important to know the difference between the two types when choosing to purchase this rather pricey liquor. Jarnac-matured cognac is matured in Cognac, France. Early-landed cognac is aged in Bristol, England.

Super premium, artfully packaged cognacs can cost anywhere from 40 to 250 times as much as a low-end cognac.
Super premium, artfully packaged cognacs can cost anywhere from 40 to 250 times as much as a low-end cognac.

The two types of vintage cognac vary greatly in taste. This is due to the fact that the conditions under which each is distilled differs greatly. Jarnac-matured cognac is aged in a dry setting. Early-landed cognac, on the other hand, ages in a damp setting where it is not given the opportunity to evaporate to the same extent as its counterpart. Jarnac-matured cognac has a much higher alcohol content than the early-landed does because of this.

To learn more about a specific bottle, read the label carefully. Cognac labels are very telling, as compared with those of some other liquors. Each label will describe the type of grapes used to make it, how long it has been aged, and what type it is.

Vintage cognac varies in color, much of which is dependent upon the age of the liquor. To best see the color, hold a partially filled glass up to a natural light source. The older it is, the darker the hue will tend to be. Vintage cognac ranges from a pure golden color to dark burnished gold.

Pricing is obviously a deciding factor for many people. Just because a liquor is expensive does not ensure that it will prove to be a favorite once the bottle is opened and the amber liquid is poured into a glass. Vintage cognac tends to be more expensive than many liquors due to the time and process required to make it. While prices can vary greatly, a mid-range priced vintage cognac will often offer a good flavor.

The best way to choose which type is right for you is by doing a tasting. Pour the liquor into a balloon glass, filling the glass to a bit less than a quarter of the way full. Allow your hands to cup the glass so the heat warms the liquor. This warming process will draw out the true flavors. When tasting it, never swallow it immediately; allow it to sit in your mouth for a few moments. After swallowing it, you should be left with a desire for another sip.

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