Cognac is a kind of spirit received after double distillation of white wine with consequent endurance in oak casks. The cognac production can be compared with art. All process is divided into stages that are strictly regulated: the picking grapes up, its pressing, distillation, maturing and nurturing.
Vines are planted with three meters interspaces to ensure maximum exposure to the sun. Grapes are collected once a year – at the beginning of October. Some owners of vineyards pick the grapes by the manual way, but the majority use machines to speed up the process. The collected grapes are exposed to pressing in conventional flat horizontal presses. Received juice is left on fermentation, without adding sugar. After three weeks, young dry wine Blanc de Blanc (about 8 % of alcohol) is sent to the distillation process (Charanta’s method, which reached us without changes), during which it passes two stages of boiling, and then we get cognac alcohol.
Since April 1 (though may be earlier, however it is recorded from this date), cognac alcohol mature in oak barrels (from 270 up to 450 liters; at constant temperature 15 and 176) from 2 till 50 years. The natural dampness, where casks are kept, is one of the major factors during maturing. During this time cognac alcohol loses its degree proof, and the oak gives amber color and pleasant taste to cognac. The substances drawn out of the oak are called dry extracts. The transition of natural oak qualities develops cognac bouquet, effects the special taste known as rancho.
Cognac alcohol is matured in casks made exclusively of oak, conventionally growing in forests Limousin and Tronsais. Every expert realizes unique qualities of this tree. The forest Tronsais is located in Allier, gives to masters who manufacture casks a weak short-grained tree with ideal porosity, and the Forest Limousin – ensures with a medium-grained and strong tree.
The casks should be: strong and at the same time porous and contain sufficient quantity of tannin, which is indispensable for making cognac bouquet. The casks are made of the broadest bottom of very old, centenary oaks.
The oldest cognacs are kept in the dark cellar called “a Paradise room”, and separated from other cellars. As soon as the cognac reaches maturity, the cellar master decides to stop the process of endurance and pours cognac into an old oak cask at first, and then into glass bottles, in which cognac remains many years without further development and contact of air.
While cognac is in the cask, absorbing all the best of oak flavor and developing most exquisite tastes, it contacts air and loses some amount of cognac alcohol called “angel’s part”.
After all “wonderful” transformations, perhaps, the most relevant stage occurs there – blending of cognacs with different features. The Master of cognac blending plays the most important role in this process. For example, only heirs of the cognac house “Camus” can wear the title of the Master of cognac blending.