All You Need To Know About Brandy: The Legendary French Wine Distillate
Brandy is a sumptuous distillate produced from the distillation of wine. The world has brandy, even if the best comes from France (which is its homeland), Italy, and Spain—coincidentally, three of the world’s largest and most venerable wine producers.
Because to make a good brandy, you need to start with something just as good: a good base wine. If you don’t, the brandy you make will be bad.
Some areas of France, such as Armagnac and Cognac, are so vocated and historical that they gave their brandy their name, so these great spirits are in all respects brandy.
Which grapes are used to make brandy?
This is the knot, the focal point of making great brandy. The wine must be white, very fresh, with low alcohol content, clean, and non-aromatic. But above all, there must be no sulfites or preservatives in the wine, which could ruin the final distillate and create unpleasant flavors in the final product.
In Italy, the Trebbiano grape is used a lot, both from Tuscany and Romagna, and is coincidentally also used for the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena and Reggio. Also, in France, Trebbiano is often used to produce brandy, but they call it Ugni blanc.
How is the French brandy made?
As mentioned, brandy is born by distillation, which can be discontinuous and made in discontinuous copper stills or continuous stills, exactly like grappa. In some virtuous cases, the Charentais alembic is used, the mythical iron used by the producers of Cognac.
The distillation is classic, double; there are no differences from other distillates. It depends greatly on the cut and thickness you intend to give to your brandy.
The boiler is filled with wine and heated with steam. The steam begins to rise, passes into the neck, and ends up in the “refrigerator,” where it condenses.
During the first distillation, the head and tail are discarded, full of unpleasant aromas and substances that can be redistilled.
However, when the brandy is extracted from the still, it is not yet brandy because it must be aged in casks for at least a year before being declared brandy.
The aging of the brandy
This passage in the barrels is essential; they are considered an ingredient, one of the most important.
The wood releases tannins that end up in the distillate and impart flavors, aromas, and color. It all depends on the type of wood used and the toasting.
The finest barrels are those of Allier and Limousine oak.
But at the same time, the distillate evaporates, oxidizes, and oxygenates so that complex notes of spices and dried fruit develop, and the fruit of the brandy rounds and becomes ripe. It is a slow process, which allows the distillate to mature and evolve.
At first, the brandy is matured in new and even smoky barrels, but then we move on to the old ones, which are used not to give aromas and flavors, but only to let the distillate breathe.
As you can see, it is a long and painstaking process, and each step adds or removes characteristics, transforms, and requires great sensitivity to produce an immortal distillate.
The alcohol content is modified by adding water since it usually comes out of the stills at 70 degrees.
If you want to produce a reserve brandy, it must age for at least two years in cask.
Usually, a brandy stays for no less than 3–5 years in the casks. It depends on the thickness of the distillate, but we already find excellent brandies with 10 years of aging in barrels, up to 30 to 40, after which it would be useless, indeed harmful. Once bottled
Is the Brandy vintage?
Usually, the brandy has no vintage because it is a blend of spirits from different vintages, but know that the age always corresponds to the age of the youngest distillate. So if you assemble a 5 and a 30, it’s a 5-year brandy.
In some rare cases, when the hand of Providence has granted a glorious vintage, some producers can produce a vintage brandy and specify the harvest year.
How to drink brandy
Brandy should be served in large balloons, held in the hand, and caressed; the warmth of your body must be transmitted to the distillate. Putting ice in brandy is sacrilege; never do it. Attention to the glass: the snifter is essential. The bottom part above the stem is rounded to let oxygen in and make contact with the air, and the edge is narrow to keep the aromas from spreading out. The glass is never a detail but the starting point.
Because of mephitic and low-quality industrial productions, brandy has struggled to establish itself as a quality product. The price ranges greatly, starting at 12 euros for the most insipid supermarket spirits and rising to 400-500 euros for fine bottles. Honestly, unless we’re talking about collector’s bottles, it’s not worth spending more than 150–200 euros for a bottle of brandy, at which point it’s better to switch to cognac and armagnac. The average price of an ok brandy is 28-35 euros.
Cocktail To Make With Brandy
But brandy is also an excellent ingredient for making cocktails. Many brandy drinks, such as the French Connection, Marsalicious, and Brandy Eggnog, have become unmissable classics, but the old Mint Julep also works well with brandy.
Brandy food Pairings
Brandy and chocolate are born to share great moments of culinary pleasure. Brandy’s spice, body, and warmth are perfect for cutting through chocolate’s buttery, bitter, and complex taste. Recommended dishes: bread cake; tiramisu, apple pie, trifle, kunefe, baklava, chocolate salami, galaktoboureko.