The delights of Cognac are boundless, with none more joyful than the discovery of the ideal eau-de-vie to pair with a favorite food. Industry behemoth, Rémy Martin, is in the midst of a global competition to create the perfect XO dessert moment. Which is, we have to say, a great idea because Cognac food pairing certainly shouldn’t end with the main course. Cognac Expert delves deep in into the concept of Cognac desserts, and we invite you to join us on the sweetest of rides…
Remy’s XO Dessert Moment competition has called on chefs, patissiers, and sommeliers to create an innovative dessert to be paired with their classic Extra Old. The judges are to include the double Michelin starred chef, Claude Bosi, of Bibendum fame.
Why Cognac food pairing is becoming an art form
Cognac food pairing is something that more and more of us are becoming aware of. So much so that the BNIC has even produced an app dedicated to just that. Called, Cognac Pairing, it’s free to download and available for both Apple and Android. People the world over are keen to learn more about what specific Cognacs go well with various menu choices.
But when it comes to the very unique subject of what Cognac to drink with the final course of a meal, it probably won’t surprise you to know that virtually every member of the CE team was keen to get in on the act. After all—desserts and Cognac—who wouldn’t be up for doing that research?
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best Cognacs to pair with different kinds of desserts. From VSOP through to the oldest of hors d’age, the science behind the flavor sensations is nothing short of fascinating, with delicious options to suit every dining table, every taste, and every budget.
1. Cognac chocolate pairing – desserts to consider
So let’s get straight down to what is probably the most classic food pairing that folks are aware of when it comes to Cognac, and that’s how well it goes with chocolate. And yes, we’re fully prepared to run the extra mile (or more) that we need to burn off those calories we’re preparing to consume.
But it’s not simply a case of one size fits all. Because first of all it’s necessary to consider that type of chocolate being used in a dessert—and in general it tends to be that of good quality dark chocolate.
For such decadent delights, it’s necessary to pair with a Cognac that embodies notes of pepper and ginger. The reason being that they perfectly complement the bitter tones of the chocolate. This should also be applied to a dessert that might not be solely that of the hallowed cocoa bean, because one such as fruits covered in dark chocolate also goes well with this side of the Cognac taste spectrum.
We love the Renault Carte d’Argent XO Cognac with dark chocolate desserts, as the spicy undertones curl deliciously with the bitterness. This double gold medal award winner is a Fine Champagne masterpiece, and if you’ve not tried the delights of Renault before, then get ready to become a fan.
XO Cognacs and above are honestly the best choice when it comes to pairing with rich chocolate desserts. In fact, the older the better, because the complexity and strength of such a Cognac not only marries so well, but has oodles of character that won’t be swamped by the power of the chocolate.
Another great choice would be our very own Sophie & Max Sélection N° 2 (there’s a few bottles left of this strictly limited edition, but you’ll have to move fast). With its aromas of raw cocoa and elegant palate, it beautifully accentuates the darkest of chocolate desserts.
Of course, we should also consider the simple pleasures of the single chocolate with a sip of eau-de-vie. For those such as a crunchy hazelnut praline, which often tend to be of the milk variety, then you can look towards the more fiery Cognac qualities, such as a VSOP or even a VS. And when it comes to white chocolate, try a VS straight from the freezer (trust us—it works!) And will open up your repertoire to further sample more adventurous pairings.
A good basic rule to follow when it comes to pairing chocolate and Cognac is that the lighter the choccie, the younger the Cognac. Keep the aged qualities for their darker, more powerful cousins.
Another decadent older offering would be the Bertrand Hors d’Age Heritage is a full-bodied, complex, and powerful Cognac that also has amazing rancio. This really is a ‘to-die-for’ luxury and really does round off a meal with panache.
A further pairing choice for those dark and brooding heavenly offerings would be the Dobbe XO Extra. This little darling is a proven perfect match, and we challenge you to find another Cognac in this price range with a finish quite as lengthy.
2. Crème Brûlée: deliciously creamy
Crème Brûlée might not be one that springs immediately to mind when thinking of a Cognac-dessert pairing. However, it’s exceedingly good and highly recommended.
It’s not just the taste of a Crème Brûlée, but the texture as well. The fondant with the crispness of the caramel really lends itself to pair with a vibrant VS or young VSOP. For an added twist, drop a block of ice into the Cognac, and allow it to melt and cool the liquid. This brings a further sensory aspect of temperature into the equation, especially if you enjoy your brulee fresh from the oven.
3. Tarte Tatin: Traditional and scrumptious
Tarte Tatin is a French classic, so pairing it with the country’s most iconic drink really does go hand in hand.
Pick an almond toned VSOP or young XO for a wonderful marriage of flavors. And for the bold and brave out there, you might even want to add a scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream to the mix. Not only does it increase the tasting gusto, but it brings a further creamy mouthfeel to the party.
A great value choice of Cognac to enjoy with such a dish would be the La Guilde Saint Preuil Grande Champagne XO Cognac. You certainly get a lot of eau-de-vie for your dollars with this delightful combination of three vintages from the premier cru; 1990, 1996, and 2004—all from the village of St Preuil. It’s a rich, round Cognac, and really does show off the flavours of the dessert, whilst being powerful enough to retain its own character.
4. Last but not least, Cognac paired with cheese
OK, so it’s no secret that certain members of the Cognac Expert crew are serious cheese-aholics. And it’s virtually an art-form as to how to best pair different cheeses with the various age qualities of Cognac.
For instance, mild blue cheeses and those with a creamy consistency, such as brie, pair beautifully with a good VSOP. The key here is to enjoy younger, less complex Cognacs with a milder cheese. That way you have a balance of the aroma and palate of both, with neither being overshadowed. You might also consider mild to medium cheddars, a young Gouda, or a fromage frais.
And then for those who agree that the stronger the cheese the better, it’s time to hit the XO quality or above. Experiment with pairings such as an XO or hors d’age with a Parmesan, a Mimolette, or a mature Camembert.
Another top tip for those who enjoy their cheese on the salty side is to place a bottle of Cognac in the freezer for a few hours. The alteration in how it feels in the mouth, plus the enhancement of sweet tones, makes for a sublime taste sensation.
One of the best aspects of Cognac dessert pairing is the joy of experimentation. You can’t really get it wrong, to be honest. Because even if you decide that the Cognac and your dessert don’t quite hit the sweet spot, not only can you try another option, but you’ve taken another step down the path that is a true appreciation of the wonder of flavor. Experts say that the key is to choose a Cognac that either has similarities to the dessert, or that has contrasting elements that are accentuated by pairing the two.
It’s a fascinating subject, and one that’s so much fun—especially when shared with friends. Cognac dessert pairing dinner party, anyone?
So if we’ve whetted your appetite into the concept of Cognac food pairing, check out our other article dedicated to that of the best to pair with seafood. And, naturally, we’d love to hear what you’ve discovered works when enjoying Cognac with a decadent dessert. Feel free to post in the comments below, so we can all get a chance to try.