Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing region in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime.
Cognac production falls under French appellation d’origine contrôlée designation, with production methods and naming required to meet certain legal requirements. Among the specified grapes, Ugni blanc, known locally as Saint-Emilion, is most widely used.The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wines barrel age, and most cognacs spend considerably longer “on the wood” than the minimum legal requirement.
Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (70–120 US proof) and is typically drunk as an after-dinner digestif. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks. Others are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring. Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the winemaking world. Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from southwestern France.
In a broader sense, the term brandy also denotes liquors obtained from the distillation of pomace (yielding pomace brandy), or mash or wine of any other fruit (fruit brandy). These products are also called eau de vie (which translates to “water of life”).