Aroma, balance and complexity are the objectives of any cognac blend. The origin of the eaux-de-vie in the blend is important, but their age is also an important factor as well.
The most important factor in determining the quality of a cognac is the skill of blending, since the quality of the eaux-de-vie is only important relative to the other eaux-de-vie in a given blend. This relative quality is a more important contributor to the final quality of the finished cognac than is the absolute quality of any one eaux-de-vie. Eaux-de-vies from different crus at different ages are needed to balance a specific blend, and strong eaux-de-vies impart their strength to lesser blends, while lesser elements can add complexity to even the finest eaux-de- vie.
Blending as well as purchasing are accomplished with the assistance and direction of the master blender. After the amount of cask aging appropriate to the grade of cognac desired, the eaux-de-vie are pre-blended into larger batches, and the final blends are put back into cask for a period of final conditioning prior to bottling. This period is known as calage, and it represents roughly a half year for V.S, a year for V.S.O.P, two years for X.O, and three years for Richard and Paradis. At the end of the maturation period, the spirit is broken down in steps with the addition of water, and caramel is added to some qualities.
[Link to this Entry]