How to read a Cognac label?

A Cognac can be identified by its label. You will find several different expressions and terms on an “etiquette”.

Terms which 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%

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.

Age: 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 agein 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 a label

Mis en bouteille a la propriété – or – au chateau: 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.

Comments (5)

  1. Cigar Ole August 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    “A Cognac can be identified by its label”

    Yes, you can get all the UNuseful information reading the label. How useful is it to know that cognac is

    -Grande Champagne vs Fin Bois
    -the cognac is xo or vsop; 7 years is very minimalistic for most cognacs

    Bache Gabrielsen luckily decided to make a range of cognacs without the normal addition of sugar that you find in ALL tax-free products; The Pure and Rustic series.

    “No sugar added” would be the most useful information for me to look for. But then, what kind of advise may we give when the VS of the Bache Gabrielsen Pure and Rustic represents a better destillation than their more expensive Pure and Rustic XO?

    To me “Grande Champagne XO” represents
    -nice bottles
    -dark oak finish
    -added sugar (making the cognac smooth but really hiding the qualities of the cognac itself)

    The expensive Remy Martin Louis XIII is easy to beat at 1/5 of the price. Or at 1/10th of the price:

    J.Normandin-Mercier Petite Champagne Single vineyard de Ste Lheurine.

    But the decision can’t be done by the label.
    It is much easier judging by the label when you buy a single malt: Go for 46% (i.e. Ardbeg 10 for you who enjoy peat), not the much more commercial boring 40% bottles (represented by Laphroigh 10!)

  2. Pablo Rotter October 13, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Some Terms should have been mentioned:
    Grande Champagne: all grapes from grande chapagne
    Fine Champagne: 50% grand champagne the rest petite champagne.

    Yes a Remy XO is overpriced but that does not logically lead to the conclusion that grande champagne XO is overpriced. Its the best stuff and if you are smart you an get it cheap.

    Delemain Pale & Dry: A classic Grande Champagne XO under $100

    There are many more I enjoy for well under $100.

    Just avoid overhyped varieties and try smaller cognac houses.

    Of course you need a very good liquor store/supplier who actually goes to cognac to get product from small producers. But many established producers offer good value, just not Remy-Martin.

  3. Pablo Rotter October 13, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Added carmel is annoying.

    Dudognon (sp?) is another great cognac estate bottled nothing but water added.

    Also a fine producer of Grande Champagne XOs well worth the value.

    I have had equally good product from petite champagne and borderies, you just have to look, smell, and drink! However do dismiss grande champagne XOs because the big houses don’t do i well and charge a lot is silly. keep looking I say.

  4. SharonGlass October 22, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Hello I’m after a little bit of information I’ve just found a full bottle unopened Remy Martin cognac it’s VSOP that’s all I know about it so would like a little help knowing what I have thank you

  5. Katja Verkh November 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Hey Sharon,

    Are you looking to sell your Remy Martin? If yes, you can have a look at our auction section. The process would include an estimation of your bottle´s value by our experts. For further questions, please have a look at our auction FAQ.

    Thank you!

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