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How To Read A Cognac Label?

13 July 2010 2 Comments

To be sold to the public, a Cognac must have been aged in oak cask for at least two years counting from the end of the distillation period, that is April 1st of the year following the harvest. Once bottled, a Cognac, unlike wine, doesn’t evolve anymore. Therefore it retains the same age indefinitely.

The executive decision of August 23, 1983 codified the use of the designations based on the length of ageing of the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend.
Here are the most widely used:

Generally speaking, Cognac Master Blenders use eaux-de-vie that are much older than the minimum requirement for their blends. In fact, the most prestigious designations may have aged for dozens of years in oak casks before being presented to the public.

The BNIC is in charge of controlling the stocks and the age of maturing Cognac.

EXAMPLE OF AN EAU-DE-VIE DISTILLED IN NOVEMBER 2005

This table shows the minimum mandatory oak cask ageing for the youngest eau-de-vie in a Cognac blend. It does not refer to the age of the finished blend contained in a Cognac bottle.

  • Compte “00” designates the distillation period following the harvest up to March 31st.
  • The ageing compte changes April 1st every year.
Vintage Cognacs

Cognacs made with eaux-de-vie from a single harvest . The year of the harvest is specified on the label. Producing vintage Cognac is not a common practice.

Lexicology of the Cognac Controlled Appellation of Origin
  • (Fine) Cognac, Eau-de-vie de Cognac, or eau-de-vie des Charentes
  • Cognac Grande (Fine) Champagne, Cognac Petite (Fine) Champagne, Cognac (Fine) Borderies, Cognac (Fine) Fins Bois, Cognac (Fine) Bons Bois: 100% of the eaux-de-vie come from the mentioned Appellation area. These mentions must be accompanied by the term “Controlled Appellation” or “AOC”
  • Fine Champagne: Controlled Appellation of Origin that designates a Cognac only composed of Grande and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vie, with a minimum content of 50% Grande Champagne.
Fine

The term “Fine” was authorized by the Law of 1928* to designate an eau-de-vie of Controlled Appellation of Origin of wine or cider origin. Note: this term does not provide any special indication regarding the age.

Single Distillery

Coming from one distillery.  This is different from Single Vineyard (below) in that the grapes for this Cognac could have come from anywhere in the Cognac Region, and simply were distilled all in one place, one single contract distillery.

Single Vineyard

Coming from a single vineyard — a single grower/producer.  This pedigree is generally not put on a label, but rather it is seen in supporting advertising material.  It is taken to mean that the family which grew and harvested the grapes, also distilled and aged the Cognac on their property, then blended and bottled it on the property.  This term means the same as Estate Bottled (above) and when used in conjunction with “Grande Champagne”, is the highest pedigree a Cognac can have.

Estate Bottled

Aged and bottled on the Estate which produced the grapes.  All of the Cognacs in the Single Vineyard Cognac Collection are Estate Bottled.

Cru

A French word for Growth Region.  There are six different sub-regions (Cru) within Cognac.  Each is graded by the French government according to the quality of the cognac produced there.  The six Cru are from best to least, (1) Grande Champagne  (2) Petite Champagne  (3) Borderies  (4) Fin Bois  (5) Bon Bois and (6) Bois Ordinaires

1er Cru du Cognac

In French, literally, ‘the 1st Cru of Cognac’. The first Cru is the Grande Champagne region.

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