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Cognac and Other Brandy

Regulations

  • Only brandy made in the Cognac region and under strict rules and regulations can be called cognac.

    The Delimited Region for the production of cognac was established by the decree of May 1, 1909. It includes the entire department of the Charente-Maritime, most of the department of Charente and small parts of the Deux-Sèvres and Dordogne departments.

    As with the production of champagne, there are many rules and regulations that producers must adhere to in order to produce cognac. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac or BNIC – states that:

    - Cognac must be a product made from grapes grown exclusively in the delimited region of Cognac in the southwest of France.

    - The wine must be produced by one of the specific white grape varieties.

    - It must undergo double-distillation in traditional copper Charentais stills.

    - Distillation must take place between November 1 and March 31 after the harvest.

    - The cognac must be aged for at least 24 months in French oak coming from the Limousin forests in central France.

    - If a cognac fails to meet these strict guidelines then it cannot be called cognac.

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  • The age of most cognac is determined by a system of age certificates called “comptes” in French.

    When a cognac comes off the still it is classified as compte 00, until the end of the distilling season (i.e. March 31), when it becomes compte 0. When it has aged until April 1 of the next year, it becomes compte 1. Each year until compte 6, one year is added to the count.


    Under exceptionally limited circumstances, a small amount of vintage-dated cognac can reach the market, as well as another type known as early-landed cognac. Early-landed cognac was shipped in bond to England and stored underground. Because of the cooler, more humid conditions, this cognac ages much more slowly, develops less color, and takes on less of the oak aromas and flavors.

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