This section shall clear the air on major misconceptions and answer the frequently asked questions surrounding cognac.
Q1) What are the 4 Major Houses of Cognac?
A1) Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin & Courvoisier.
Q2) Does cognac continue to age in the bottle?
A2) No. Unlike wine, cognac does not age after it is bottled. The maturity process of the eau de vie only takes place in the oak barrel and stops after it leaves the barrel for bottling. Therefore you should not entertain advertisements that say "Old cognac for sale, kept for 15 years". The quality of the cognac is controlled strictly by the cellar master or master blender of the cognac houses and will not differ with time. Therefore there is no reason for cognac to become pricier over time.
Q3) Having said so, why is it that the cognac taste "smoother" after it has been kept in the bottle for many years?
A3) Some of the alcohol has evaporated which is why it seemed more gentle on the throat.
Q4) What is the best way to drink cognac?
A4) Other than VS, the rest of the Cognac should be enjoyed neat, without ice.
Q5) I choke on cognac whenever I drink it neat, how can I overcome this?
A5) There is a way to eat wasabi by itself without getting choked. This is the same technique used to drink cognac without getting choked on it. You will be taught in the courses.
Q6) Why do I see the words "Fine Champagne" on a bottle of cognac?
A6) Champagne is a French word meaning "chalky soil". It must not be mixed up with the Champagne region of France that produces sparkling wine. For a cognac to claim "Fine Champagne", it must be made from the grapes grown from Grande Champagne (at least 50%) and the rest from Petite Champagne.
Q7) What are Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne?
A7) Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Borderies are the top 3 growing regions of Cognac. Generally, a bottle of cognac made from 100% Grande Champagne will cost more than a bottle made from 100% Petite Champagne. However it is not conclusive to determine that the growing regions of Petite Champagne is inferior compared to Grande Champagne. In fact, certain regions of Petite Champagne produces as good or even better cognacs than Grande Champagne. Most good cognacs are a blend of Grande and Petite Champagne.
Q8) What is the most common grape used to make cognac?
A8) Ugni Blanc.
Q9) Which is the biggest manufacturer of cognac?
Q10) What are the finest and most prestigious cognacs commercially available today (Year 2010)?
A10) In my opinion would be the Richard Hennessy and Remy Martin Louis XIII.
Q11) How would you compare red wine appreciation with cognac appreciation?
A11) An interesting question. First is the issue of enjoyment. Both are as complex and I would say both are as enjoyable. Second is the issue of cost. A 90 to 95 point red wine can cost about 80 to more than 100 Singapore dollars per bottle whereas a 90 to 95 point Cognac XO can cost about 300 to 400 Singapore dollars. I would say that it would cost more to appreciate red wine. The reason is that red wine cannot be stored for too long before it turns bad. The quality of the red wine will start to turn bad even with air-tight sealing on the opened bottle. Therefore it is best to finish up the bottle of red wine in a single session upon opening it. Cognac however, has a tougher storage life and continue to remain good even after months of opening. Therefore cognac appreciation would be cheaper as you can enjoy one or two shots as and when you feel like it and keep the remaining for following sessions to come.
Q12) What is the difference between cognac and brandy?
A12) All cognacs are brandies but not all brandies are cognacs. Only brandy produced in the Cognac region of France can claim to be "Cognac".
Q13) How can I tell if an unopened bottle of cognac is good?
A13) Check its seal, colour then run it through the clarity and viscosity test. You will be taught of these in the course.
Q14) What are the type of glasses used to appreciate cognac?
A14) They are the conventional balloon snifter, tulip and chimney tulip cognac glasses. There are different ways to use these glasses and they are meant for different qualities of cognacs. Generally, the top class cognacs will be enjoyed with the chimney tulip cognac glasses.
Q15) What are some of the foods & stuffs that pairs well with cognac?
A15) They are dark chocolate, foie gras (goose liver), caviar, good cheeses, macadamia nuts, walnuts, dark coffee and cigars.