Cognac is a luxurious and sophisticated drink that has been associated with refinement and elegance for centuries. It is a type of brandy that is made from white wine and is distilled twice in the Cognac region of Western France. It is a complex drink and can be quite intimidating to a beginner. However, with a little guidance, anyone can learn to appreciate and enjoy the unique taste and aroma of cognac. In this beginner’s guide to cognac, we will cover everything you need to know to get started.
The first thing to understand about cognac is the grading system. Cognacs are rated based on their age and quality. The most common grades are VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), and XO (Extra Old). Hennessy VS Cognac is a popular example of a VS cognac and stands for Very Special. These grades indicate the age of the youngest eau-de-vie (a clear, colourless fruit brandy) in the blend. VS cognacs have a minimum age of two years, VSOP has a minimum age of four years, and XO has a minimum age of six years.
The next thing to consider is the tasting process. The traditional way to taste cognac is to pour a small amount into a tulip-shaped glass and swirl it to release the aroma. Then, take a small sip and let it rest on your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. This allows you to fully appreciate the flavours and aromas of the cognac. You can also add a little water to the cognac, which can help to open up the flavours and aromas.
When it comes to food pairing, cognac is traditionally enjoyed as a digestif (an after-dinner drink). It pairs well with rich desserts, dark chocolate, and strong cheeses. However, cognac can also be paired with savoury dishes, such as smoked salmon, foie gras, and grilled meats. The key to successful food pairing is to match the intensity and complexity of the cognac with the dish.
Another important factor to consider is the temperature at which you serve your cognac. Cognacs are typically served at room temperature or slightly below. This allows the full range of aromas and flavours to come through. However, some people prefer to serve cognac slightly chilled, especially in warmer weather. If you do choose to chill your cognac, be sure not to overdo it, as this can dull the flavours and aromas.
It’s important to choose a high quality cognac. While there are many affordable options available, it is worth investing in a good bottle for a special occasion. Hennessy VS is a great place to start, as it is a classic and well-regarded brand with a rich history. However, there are many other excellent cognacs available, so be sure to explore and find one that suits your taste.
Cognac is a complex and sophisticated drink that can be intimidating to beginners. However, with a little guidance, anyone can learn to appreciate and enjoy the unique taste and aroma of cognac. Start by understanding the grading system, tasting process, and food pairing options. Remember to serve your cognac at the proper temperature and choose a high-quality brand for a special occasion. With these tips in mind, you can embark on an exciting journey of discovery and become a true cognac connoisseur.