Production of cognac is a very difficult process that can last for decades. Some say “it’s easy to make cognac; you just need your great grandfather, grandfather and father to devote all their lives to it”.
We are in the Crimea, in the cognac house that was founded in 1871. The cognac house we are visiting is called Magliv. It specializes in cognac and grappa production.
Cognac is named after the town of Cognac in France. Cognac is a variety of brandy. It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name.
It is made from specified grapes such as Ugni Blanc, Colombard or Montils. Ugni Blanc is one of the most widely used at the present time.
After the grapes are pressed in traditional horizontal presses, the juice is left to ferment for two or three weeks without adding sugar. At this point, the resulting wine is about 7 to 8% alcohol. Distillation takes place in traditionally shaped Charentais copper stills, the design and dimensions of which are legally controlled. Two distillations must be carried out; the resulting eau-de-vie is a colorless spirit of about 70% alcohol.
Magliv uses Arnold Holstein distillers making 50 L of cognac spirit daily.
Once distillation is complete, they age it in oak at the temperature of +15C for two to fifty years before it can be sold to the public. As the cognac interacts with the oak barrel and the air, it evaporates at the rate of about three percent each year, slowly losing both alcohol and water. Oak barrels stop contributing to flavor after four or five decades, cognac is then transferred to large glass carboys, then stored for future blending.
The age of the cognac is calculated as that of the youngest eau-de-vie used in the blend. This blending, or marriage, of different eaux-de-vie is important to obtain a complexity of flavors absent from an eau-de-vie from a single distillery or vineyard. Each cognac house has a master taster, who is responsible for creating this delicate blend of spirits, so that the cognac produced by a company today will taste almost exactly the same as the cognac produced by that same company 50 years ago, or in 50 years’ time.