If you like to relax after an extended gourmet meal, reach for a brandy or a sophisticated grappa.
While some like to withdraw into a specially designed room, light a cigar (Cuban or from another coutnry) and enjoy a bottle or two vintage ports, others prefer distillates.
Should you prefer distillates over fortified wines, here are a few suggestions.
Cognac is the brandy of the Charente Maritime in western France and was first produced in the 16th century following a business savvy Dutch captain who used to haul the region’s wine in bulk to the Netherlands. The good captain thought of distilling the wine and reconstitute with water in the Netherlands. This would have allowed him to carry more “wine” and increase his profits.
When his ship arrived in Amsterdam, curious consumers tasted it and found it very palatable and effective.
Brandy (burnt wine) was born, and been growing in popularity ever since.
Today there are hundreds of cognac distillers, but only huge and well-established distillers export worldwide. They can afford to advertise, carry out marketing research and send sales representatives to important markets to increase sales.
Cognac comes in various degrees of smoothness descriptions, and packages. (French excel in creating imaginative bottle designs using even crystal or Limoges porcelain).
V S (Very Special) stands for three years of barrel aging, VS O P (Very Special Old Product), five years and anything beyond are marketed by different distillers or blenders as Napoleon (nothing to do with Napoleon the General), or hors d’age (beyond age), X O , are only a few.
Below are a few brands and their various classifications:
Hennessey markets – V S , V S O P , The Creme de la Creme, Paradis, Richard Hennessey, Fine de Cognac
Meukow V S O P
Courvoisier – 12 years old, Connoisseur Collection, V S O P, X O , Imperial, Napoleon, Exclusif 21 Years Old, 12 Years Old
Remy Martin – V S O P, Robin Thicke, 1965 Rare, 1955 Rare, Accord Royal Vintage 1989
Baron Otard V S O P, X O
Larsen – V S O V Very Superior Old Viking), X O, Extra Or, Leif Erikson, Extra reserve, Le Drakkar, La Cloche Viking
Hine – Rare V S O P, Cigar Reserve, Homage Fine Champagne,
X O, Triomphe, Family reserve, Antique Grand Champagne,
Martell – V S, V S O P, X O, Supreme, ODYS, Medallion, Cordon Bleu, Cohiba, Noblige
Camus – V S, V S O P, X O , X O Superieur, Napoleon
Delamain – Grand Chaapgne, Vesper, Extra, X O, Cigar de Grand Cru, Prevenable
Armagnac is another brandy from south-western France. Some people like it for its deeper flavour than Cognac and its mouth feel
Delards 25 years Old Bas Armagnac
Damblat Armagnac 1971, Armagnac 10 Years Old, Napoleon
Marquis de Sanvel Armagnac 1981
Armagnac de Montal V S O P
Grappa (aka trester, in Deutschland and Austria, Marc in France is a clear liquid widely consumed in Italy.
There are many grappa distillers, given the fact that Italy produces millions of litres of wine.
The following distillers produce a range of grappas.
Ca Rugate, Veneto,
Bepi Tosolini, Friuli
Tenuta Silvio Nardi, Tuscany
Carpene Malvolti, Veneto
Enjoy brandy in a snifter and at room temperature.
Never flame brandy as some people in restaurant order to impress their guests. Flaming unbalances the product.
Note: Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Burgundy produces a fine Marc which is only available in limited quantities and costs a lot, but worth seeking if you can afford it.