Amour… Is love French? Silly question, right? The word certainly sounds better in that language. Notice how you kind of pucker up and close your eyes when you say ‘amour.’ Go ahead try it, very slowly, and look at yourself in a mirror while you say it. You might even want to take a selfie and post it on Instagram as a video. Did you also get a warm fuzzy feeling? That’s the feeling you get when you have a great cognac, which is French.
The dictionary defines love as a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend, sexual passion or desire, a person toward whom love is felt, a beloved person, sweetheart, a love affair, an intensely amorous incident, and sexual intercourse or copulation.
Cognac, the noun, in Dictionary.com has 3 definitions: 1- brandy distilled in and shipped from the legally delimited area surrounding the town of Cognac. 2- any French brandy. 3- any good brandy.
What about the experience of cognac in the third definition? What makes a good cognac is what makes a good love affair. The tone, age, and personal touch. That’s why I recommend a house that’s remained loyal to its roots. Not that a good love affair has to be born within the same culture and, although there has been a strong connection between the French and British for centuries, remaining French allows the cognac to be even more international. Savoring French Western central region grapes cared for locally, then aged in barrels of hugs and kisses, good wishes and strong work ethics, calls for a strong affection. The perfect love affair. Your love and you in a cozy interior region of the State protected by age old traditions and savoring the land and its people. That is cognac. Amour.
Of course there is more than one kind of cognac grade, or shall I say, evolutionary stages of amour, each with its own delight.
The VS is a Very Special young brandy between 2-5 years of age.
The VSOP, a Very Special Old Pale, is aged for at least four, most commonly between 5-10 years. The term was given by the British in 1817.
The XO is, besides Hugs and Kisses, Extra Old. It is aged 6 years, minimum, and up to 20, with 10 being an average.
Then there is Napoleon, equal to an XO and in between a VSOP and an XO.
The Extras are older than an XO.
A Vieux is a grade between VSOP and XO.
Vieille Réserve is like the Hors d’âge, or beyond the official age scale, of very high quality.
Some cognac houses do not use the Bristish labels.
These being the known types of grades known, there are many kinds of blends. Some blends are masss-produced resulting in very low cost and low quality brandy. Then there are the blends created with drops of Hors d’âge with XO that produce the best quality for the cost.
Cognac. like amour, the older, the better. The best blends are achieved by extracting the vapors and aromas of the new and mixing it with the old then distilling it not just once but twice before the ageing process. In order to last, love must undergo a similar process of distillation to become concentrated and refined.
The tone and aroma of cognac as a result of the ageing process comes from the oak barrels made by coopers out of oak trees from different regions of the world, especially hundred year old French oaks, cut along the grain into merrains and further staged 1-3 years before the staves are shaped. Coopers are highly skilled in the process of toasting the staves for the right amount of time and with the right intensity in order to shape them using wire belts.
Tell me that’s not love. For love to last this long some very special care must be given to the relationship. And so it is that cognac is created with loving care paying attention to every detail beginning with the purity of the grapes.
Like a long term loving relationship which reduces chances of disease and increases healing power, cognac has many health benefits.
Cognac is a source of polyphenolic antioxidants found in grapes which are anti-inflamatory and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
As in love, moderation is the key to long lasting benefits.