Cognac Birthday Date in the current year: April 1, 2024

Cognac Birthday On April 1, all lovers and connoisseurs of hard liquors celebrates the birthday of cognac. Contrary to what you might think, it does not mark the day when cognac was allegedly invented; such a date was chosen because it is used in the industry to count the age of cognac.

Cognac is a variety of brandy (a hard liquor that is produced by distilling wine, fruit mash or pomace and contains 35–60% alcohol by volume). More specifically, cognac is a type of grape brandy, meaning that is distilled from grape wine. The difference between cognac and other grape brandies is that the term “cognac” only applies to brandy produced in the Cognac region of France using traditional techniques.

The history of cognac dates back to the 12th century, when the first vineyards were planted in the region of Poitou-Charentes in western France. By that time, the town of Cognac had already become a major port, where Dutch merchants came to purchase salt. When the region began to produce wines, the merchants started to buy them too.

However, by the 16th century, the quality of local wines had dropped significantly due to overproduction, so its transportation by sea to other countries became impossible. To solve the problem, the Dutch began to build distilleries and distill local wines to make brandwijn (brandy). The distillate was transported by sea and then diluted with water to reduce alcohol by volume (of course, this didn’t restore the original taste of the wine).

In several decades, the French refined the distillation process and, thanks to ship loading delays in the port, discovered that taste of the distillate improved when it was stored in oak casks for some time, and that it could be consumed undiluted. So the French began to mass produce and bottle this “refined” version of grape brandy.

Cognac was officially granted the AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée, “controlled designation of origin”) status in 1936. This means that no grape brandy produced outside the Cognac region can go by the name “cognac”.

The most widely used grape variety in the production of cognac is Trebbiano, also known as Ugni blanc. The juice pressed from the grapes is left to ferment for about 3 weeks. The resulting white wine is very dry and acidic, since no sugar may be added during fermentation. It is virtually undrinkable, but perfect for distillation and aging. After double distillation, the resulting eau de vie (clear, colorless brandy) is aged in oak casks for at least two years.

According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the distillate made from last harvest grapes must be poured into casks before March 31, and the cognac aging countdown starts from April 1. This date is considered to be the “birthday” of cognac. Cognac must be aged for at least two years before being bottled and sold.

It is generally considered that the older the cognac, the higher the quality. The official quality grades of cognac are V.S. (min. 2 years), V.S.O.P./Reserve (min. 4 years), Napoléon (min. 6 years), XO (min. 10 years), XXO (min. 14 years), and Hors d'âge (high-quality cognacs beyond the official age scale).

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