A Cognac can be identified by its label.
You will find several different expressions and terms on an “etiquette”. So, how do I read a Cognac label?
There are a number of terms that must be on the label.
- The name: Cognac, Eau-de-vie de Cognac or Eau-de-vie des Charentes
- The volume: The standard is 0,7 or 0,75 L
- The ABV, which must be at least at 40%.
2. The origin of the grapes must also be on there
- The origin of the grapes that were used for the wine, which again gets used for distilling, called appellation. There are 6 major regional appellations in the Cognac region: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaire.
See also our article, the 6 Cognac zones to discover more about them.
3. The age of the Cognac
Cognac uses its own terms for the age of the spirit. Once distilled, the Cognac is aged in oak barrels – where it gets its color and balanced taste. Read more about aging in oak casks here.
The different ages indicate the age of the youngest eaux-de-vie used in the blend: V.S. stands for Very Special, VSOP for Very Superior Old Pale and Napoléon or XO is Extra old.
See the article about the different quality and age grades here.
How is that all controlled?
By an organization called BNIC – the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac. The BNIC’s function is to lobby, communicate and promote the Charente product in France and basically everywhere. They also control quality and set certain standards.
Vintage and Millésimes Cognacs: There are Single Estate Cognacs, but it’s rather rare. It means that the eaux-de-vie are coming from one single harvest. The date on the label indicates the date of the harvest of the grapes. If you want to know what kind of grapes are used, read this article.
Other words mentioned on the label
- Mis en bouteille a la propriété – or – au château: That means that the bottling took place at the property itself or the mansion.
- Premier Cru: Is related to the Grande Champagne Cru, as it is considered the best and also most expensive Cru (appellation) in the Cognac region.
Often the name of the import company is printed on the label.