Each Cognac is identified by its label, based on a number of mentions and designations.
Reading a Label
To be sold to the public, a Cognac must have been aged in oak cask for at least two years counting from the end of the distillation period, that is April 1st of the year following the harvest (compte
2). Once bottled, a Cognac, unlike wine, doesn't evolve anymore. Therefore it retains the same age indefinitely.
The executive decision of August 23, 1983 codified the use of the designations based on the length of ageing of the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend.
Here are the most widely used:
- V.S. (Very Special) or *** (3 star)... Compte 2: Cognacs whose youngest eau-de-vie is at least two years old.
- V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), Reserve... Compte 4: Cognacs whose youngest eau-de-vie is at least four years old.
- Napoléon, X.O (Extra Old), Hors d'âge... Compte 6: Cognacs whose youngest eau-de-vie is at least six years old.
Generally speaking, Cognac Master Blenders use eaux-de-vie that are much older than the minimum requirement for their blends. In fact, the most prestigious designations may have aged for dozens of years in oak casks before being presented to the public.
The BNIC is in charge of controlling the stocks and the age of maturing Cognac.
EXAMPLE OF AN EAU-DE-VIE DISTILLED IN NOVEMBER 2005
This table shows the minimum mandatory oak cask ageing for the youngest eau-de-vie in a Cognac blend. It does not refer to the age of the finished blend contained in a Cognac bottle.
- Compte "00" designates the distillation period following the harvest up to March 31st.
- The ageing compte changes April 1st every year.
Cognacs made with eaux-de-vie from a single harvest . The year of the harvest is specified on the label. Producing vintage Cognac is not a common practice.
Lexicology of the Cognac Controlled Appellation of Origin
- (Fine) Cognac, Eau-de-vie de Cognac, or eau-de-vie des Charentes
- Cognac Grande (Fine) Champagne, Cognac Petite (Fine) Champagne, Cognac (Fine) Borderies, Cognac (Fine) Fins Bois, Cognac (Fine) Bons Bois: 100% of the eaux-de-vie come from the mentioned Appellation area. These mentions must be accompanied by the term "Controlled Appellation" or "AOC"
- Fine Champagne: Controlled Appellation of Origin that designates a Cognac only composed of Grande and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vie, with a minimum content of 50% Grande Champagne.
The term "Fine" was authorized by the Law of 1928
* to designate an eau-de-vie of Controlled Appellation of Origin of wine or cider origin. Note: this term does not provide any special indication regarding the age.
* Only available in french version