Cognac production technology: 5 steps to fine alcohol
The technology by which real cognac is produced is a rather complicated, multi-stage process, which sometimes acquires the features of real art.
Over the five-hundred-year history of this drink, a number of rules and canons have been formed, which are strictly followed by modern descendants of many generations of old masters. Some of these rules are even reflected in today's French legislation.
Pressing, fermentation and distillation
The technology of cognac production, as a rule, involves the use of a special variety of white grapes "Uni Blanc".
Due to its high acidity and relatively slow ripening period, this grape is characterized by high yields and resistance to various diseases and pests.
Some small cognac enterprises use Colombard, Folle Blanche and Montiel for their needs.
However, these grape varieties, which produce brighter, more aromatic and richer grape spirits, are extremely capricious and require careful maintenance. Immediately after the grape harvest, which takes place in October, the bunches are sent to the crush house.
Only horizontal pneumatic presses are used to squeeze the juice here, since the operation of these devices, unlike screw presses, does not lead to the crushing of grape seeds.
Next, there is a fermentation of the squeezed juice. This process lasts about three weeks. At the same time, it is strictly forbidden to add any sugar to the wort. The result is a young, very sour wine with a strength of 10 degrees, which is subjected to distillation.
The distillation of the resulting wine into alcohol is carried out in archaic, but no less effective, copper alambics.
At this stage, the future cognac is subjected to double distillation. After the first distillation, raw alcohol with a strength of 27-32 degrees is obtained, which is subject to repeated processing. It is at this moment that the fate of the future drink is decided, which depends entirely on the experience of the master distiller.
Repeated distillation involves the competent extraction of the so-called middle alcohol fraction, which is the only one suitable for further transformation into cognac. This part of the distillate, with a strength of 68-72 degrees, safely separated from the alcohol "head" and "tail", eventually ends up in the famous cognac cellars of the French province of Charente.
Aging and blending
Carefully selected cognac spirits are aged in special handmade barrels made of the famous Limousin and lesser known Trondheim oak. At the same time, the barrels are fired before being filled with alcohol.
This is done to soften the wood in order to facilitate the process of interaction between the alcohol and the container containing it.
"The drink matures in special cognac cellars. The aging period varies between two and seventy years. In principle, you can do this longer, but the quality of the cognac will not be affected by further staying in the barrel.
During its imprisonment, the drink easily absorbs the substances contained in oak wood, which gives it a characteristic color, taste and smell, as is typical for grape alcohols.
Interestingly, the parameters of cognac are also affected by the level of humidity maintained in the cellar.
The lower the humidity, the harder and more structured the drink becomes, the higher the humidity, the more rounded and mellow its flavor becomes.
Upon reaching the planned age, the alcohol is poured from the barrel into large glass bottles, after which it is transferred to a part of the cellar called paradise. Here, the beverage can be stored indefinitely on demand.
To create most brands of cognac produced on an industrial scale, the blending method is used. In order to give the drink the stable qualities inherent in a particular brand, spirits obtained from several grape harvests are mixed.
The aging period of such a blended drink is determined by the age of the youngest of the alcohols that make up its composition.
If alcohol obtained from the harvest of one year was used to create cognac, then such a drink is called millesimus. It is valued much higher, but at the same time is subject to much more thorough state control.
At the end of the cognac production process, bottles with less demanding drinks are delivered to supermarkets, specialty stores or duty-free boutiques. The more venerable inhabitants of cognac cellars return to the local paradise, where they can safely wait for their buyer for centuries.
Category: Brandy and Cognac