Brandy is a class of spirits that is distilled from grape wine, the pomace left over from winemaking, or the fermented juice from other fruits. Most grape brandies are aged in oak, while the fruit and pomace brandies are unaged and clear. Origin: In the 16th century, brandy was believed to be created as a more cost effective way to ship wine. By distilling the wine and removing the water content, ships were able to send more alcohol by volume overseas and sell it as wine again after adding the water back to the liquid. The Dutch liked the concentrated wine as it was, calling the new product brandewijn, or “burnt wine,” which then became anglicized to brandy.
Cognac & Armagnac
Cognac and Armagnac are regions in France, producing some of the finest brandies in the world. The dominant grape variety is Ugni Blanc with small amounts of Colombard and Folle Blanche. Various production methods exist creating brandies that have a soft character ideal for drinking young, to ones that have a little more assertiveness ideal for longer aging. The casks used for aging Cognac are typically Limousin oak, which, because of the porous nature, allows for more liquid interaction with the wood. Cognac & Armagnac have several label terms that indicate the age of the brandy from V.S. (Very Special) to X.O. (Extra Old).
Grappa is produced in Italy from the discarded grape skins left over from winemaking. Can be aged or unaged.
Distilled from fermented fruit juice, a wide variety of styles exist. Two of the most common are Poire William, made from pears; and Calvados, produced with apples. Cherry brandy and kirsch are also common.