The famous Cognac region of France lies just north of the vineyards of Bordeaux. Its vineyard area is divided into six growing areas, with the most notable and famous of these being Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne – although these terms have nothing to do with the region of Champagne, their connection comes about through the high chalk content in the soils.
There is a certain mystique surrounding the relative qualities of Cognac and many people feel that because it is a perceived ‘luxury good’ when they purchase any bottle with the word ‘Cognac’ on the label it will be of exceptional quality; please note that this is not necessarily the case!
In Cognac terms the quality depends almost entirely on the length of time they have been aged and then classified accordingly. As a brief insight in to what to look out for here are the basics:
VS Cognac: More commonly known as three-star, denoted by three stars on the label. This may contain brandies as young as two years old.
VSOP - Very Special (or Superior) Old Pale Cognac: An old English term denoting a particularly fine, yet pale cognac. The spirit in these cognacs must have been aged in wood for a minimum of four years.
XO Cognac: Those that have been blended from minimum six-year-old cognacs may be entitled XO with many houses generally using much older blends.