Brandy

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Cognac brandy in a typical snifter.

Brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn, "burnt wine")[1] is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (70–120 US proof) and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some brandies are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring.

Brandy is also produced from fermented fruits other than grapes, but these products are typically named eaux-de-vie, especially in France.

In some countries, fruit flavouring or some other flavouring may be added to a spirit that is called "brandy".

Uses[edit]

Serving[edit]

Brandy may be served neat or on the rocks (over ice cubes). It may be added to other beverages to make several popular cocktails; these include the Brandy Sour, the Brandy Alexander, the Sidecar, the Brandy Daisy, and the Brandy Old Fashioned.

In western countries, brandy is traditionally drunk neat at room temperature from a snifter or a tulip glass. In parts of Asia, it is usually drunk on the rocks.

When drunk at room temperature, it is often slightly warmed by holding the glass cupped in the palm or by gentle heating. Excessive heating of brandy may cause the alcohol vapour to become too strong, causing its aroma to become overpowering. Brandy drinkers who like their brandy warmed may ask for the glass to be heated before the brandy is poured.

Culinary[edit]

Medicinal[edit]

History[edit]

The origins of brandy were clearly tied to the development of distillation. Brandy, as it is known today, began to appear in the 12th century and became generally popular in the 14th century.

Initially wine was distilled as a preservation method and as a way to make it easier for merchants to transport. It is also thought that wine was originally distilled to lessen the tax which was assessed by volume. The intent was to add the water removed by distillation back to the brandy shortly before consumption. It was discovered that after having been stored in wooden casks, the resulting product had improved over the original distilled spirit.[2] In addition to removing water, the distillation process led to the formation and decomposition of numerous aromatic compounds, fundamentally altering the composition of the distillate from its source. Non-volatile substances such as pigments, sugars, and salts remained behind in the still. As a result, the taste of the distillate was often quite unlike that of the original source.

As described in the 1728 edition of Cyclopaedia, the following method was used to distill brandy:[3]

A cucurbit was filled half full of the liquor from which brandy was to be drawn and then raised with a little fire until about one sixth part was distilled, or until that which falls into the receiver was entirely flammable. This liquor, distilled only once, was called spirit of wine or brandy. Purified by another distillation (or several more), this was then called spirit of wine rectified. The second distillation was made in balneo mariae and in a glass cucurbit, and the liquor was distilled to about one half the quantity. This was further rectified—as long as the operator thought necessary—to produce brandy.

To shorten these several distillations, which were long and troublesome, a chemical instrument was invented that reduced them to a single distillation. To test the purity of the rectified spirit of wine, a portion was ignited. If the entire contents were consumed without leaving any impurities behind, then the liquor was good. Another, better test involved putting a little gunpowder in the bottom of the spirit. If the gunpowder took fire when the spirit was consumed, then the liquor was good.[3]

As most brandies have been distilled from grapes, the regions of the world producing excellent brandies have roughly paralleled those areas producing grapes for viniculture. At the end of the 19th century, the western European markets, including by extension their overseas empires, were dominated by French and Spanish brandies and eastern Europe was dominated by brandies from the Black Sea region, including Bulgaria, the Crimea, and Georgia. In 1880, David Saradjishvili founded his Cognac Factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, a crossroads for Turkish, Central Asian, and Persian trade routes and a part of the Russian Empire at the time. Armenian and Georgian brandies, called cognacs in the era, were considered some of the best in the world and often beat their French competitors at the International Expositions in Paris and Brussels in the early 1900s. The storehouses of the Romanov Court in St. Petersburg were regarded as the largest collections of cognacs and wines in the world with much of it from the Transcaucasus region of Georgia. During the October Revolution of 1917, upon the storming of the Winter Palace, the Bolshevik Revolution actually paused for a week or so as the participants gorged on the substantial stores of cognac and wines. The Russian market was always a huge brandy-consuming region in which home-grown varieties were common but much of it was imported. The patterns of bottles followed that of the western European norm. Throughout the Soviet era, the production of brandy was a source of pride for the communist regime as they continued to produce some excellent varieties, especially the most famous Jubilee Brandies of 1967, 1977, and 1987. Remaining bottles of these productions are highly sought after, not simply for their quality, but for their historical significance.

Terminology and legal definitions[edit]

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and general colloquial usage of the term, brandy may also be made from pomace and from fermented fruit other than grapes.[2]

If a beverage comes from a particular fruit (or multiple fruits) other than exclusively grapes, or from the must of such fruit, it may be referred to as a "fruit brandy" or "fruit spirit" or named using the specific fruit, such as "peach brandy", rather than just generically as "brandy". If pomace is the raw material, the beverage may be called "pomace brandy", "marc brandy", "grape marc", "fruit marc spirit", or "grape marc spirit". Grape pomace brandy may be designated as "grappa" or "grappa brandy".[4] Apple brandy may be referred to as "applejack".[4] There is also a product called "grain brandy" that is made from grain spirits.[5]

Within particular jurisdictions, there are specific regulatory requirements regarding the labelling of products identified as brandy. For example:

Within the European Union, the German term Weinbrand is legally equivalent to the English term "brandy", but outside the German-speaking countries it is particularly used to designate brandy from Austria and Germany. In Poland, brandy is sometimes called winiak, from wino (wine).

Types[edit]

There are three main types of brandy. The term "brandy" denotes grape brandy if the type is not otherwise specified.

Grape brandy[edit]

Grape brandy is produced by the distillation of fermented grapes.

Brandy de Jerez in barrels aging.

The European Union and some other countries legally enforce the use of the name Cognac as the exclusive name for brandy produced and distilled in the Cognac area of France and the name Armagnac for brandy from the Gascony area of France. Both must also be made using traditional techniques. Since these are considered PDO, a brandy made elsewhere in a manner identical to the method used to make Cognac and which tastes similar to Cognac, cannot be called Cognac in places that restrict the use of that term to products made in the Cognac region of France. Such places include other parts of Europe, the United States and Canada.

Fruit brandy[edit]

A bottle of Calvados, a French fruit brandy made from apples.

Fruit brandies are distilled from fruits other than grapes. Apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, elderberries, raspberries, and blackberries are the most commonly used fruits. Fruit brandy usually contains 40% to 45% ABV (80 to 90 US proof). It is often colourless. Fruit brandy is customarily drunk chilled or over ice, but is occasionally mixed. For example, blackberry brandy and Coca-Cola are mixed to make a popular New England drink called "the blackbird".

Pomace brandy[edit]

Marc de Bourgogne. Unlike many, this pomace brandy from Burgundy, France, is aged (Tres Vieux, Very Old), which gives it its caramel colour.

Pomace brandy, also called marc in both English and French, is produced by fermentation and distillation of the grape skins, seeds, and stems that remain after grapes have been pressed to extract their juice for making wine. Most pomace brandies are neither aged nor coloured.

Examples of pomace brandy are:

Distillation[edit]

A batch distillation typically works as follows:

Wine with an alcohol concentration of 8% to 12% ABV (16 to 24 US proof) and high acidity is boiled in a pot still. Vapours of alcohol, water, and numerous aromatic components rise and are collected in a condenser coil, where they become a liquid again. Because alcohol and the aromatic components vaporise at a lower temperature than water, the concentration of alcohol in the condensed liquid (the distillate) is higher than in the original wine.

After one distillation, the distillate, called "low wine," will contain roughly 30% alcohol by volume (60 US proof). The low wine is then distilled a second time. The first 1% or so of distillate that is produced, called the "head," has an alcohol concentration of about 83% (166 US proof) and an unpleasant odour, so it is discarded (generally, mixed with another batch of low wine, thereby entering the distillation cycle again). The distillation process continues, yielding a distillate of approximately 70% alcohol (140 US proof) (called the "heart"), which is what will be consumed as brandy. The portion of low wine that remains after distillation, called the "tail," will be mixed into another batch of low wine (so that the tail enters the distillation cycle again, as does the head).

Distillation does not simply enhance the alcohol content of wine. The heat under which the product is distilled and the material of the still (usually copper) cause chemical reactions to take place during distillation. This leads to the formation of numerous new volatile aroma components, changes in relative amounts of aroma components in the wine, and the hydrolysis of components such as esters.

Pot stills vs. column stills[edit]

Cognac and South African "pot still brandy" are examples of brandy produced in batches using pot stills (batch distillation). Many American brandies use fractional distillation in column stills to perform their distillation.

Special pot stills with a fractionating section on top are used for Armagnac.

Aging[edit]

Brandy is produced using one of three aging methods:

Labelling[edit]

Brandy has a traditional quality rating system, although its use is unregulated outside of Cognac and Armagnac. These indicators can usually be found on the label near the brand name:

In the case of Brandy de Jerez, the Consejo Regulador de la Denominacion Brandy de Jerez classifies it according to:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1989. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2007. [vague]
  3. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Brandy". Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. 
  4. ^ a b c "Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, Title 27 Code of Federal Regulations, Pt. 5.22". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  5. ^ EC regulation No. 110/2008, Annex II, nn 3.
  6. ^ Cfr. Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 "on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of spirit drinks"[dead link]
  7. ^ EC regulation No. 110/2008, Annex II, nn 3–9u.
  8. ^ "Food and Drug Regulations, C.R.C., c. 870". Laws.justice.gc.ca. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits, 5th edition, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987). Page 464.
  10. ^ "Bulk Brandy Producer, Rudolf Prehn GmbH". Prehn.com. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Ray Foley (2011). The Ultimate Little Cocktail Book. Sourcebooks, Inc. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  12. ^ "South Africa wins Best Brandy in the World". Southafrica.net. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 

External links[edit]