Brandy, short for Brandywine, is a really strong wine. In Dutch the translation of Brandywine (or brandewijn) is “fire wine” which is a great definition for the term Brandy, a wine that had more alcohol content than that of wine.
For hundreds of years people have been enjoying brandy, usually as an after-dinner drink. There are different tiers of brandy quality which is highly based on age and methods of distillation:
- A.C: Brandy which has been aged roughly 2-years in wood.
- V.S: Stands for “Very Special” and has been aged in wood for 3-years.
- V.S.O.P: Stands for “Very Special Old Pale” and has been aged in wood for 5-years.
- X.O: The “Extra Old” variety of brandy that has been aged at least 6-years.
- Vintage: Aged for a long time but the age isn’t labeled until it is put in a bottle, the age is written on the bottle.
- Hors D’age: Too old to know for sure, but you do know it’s at least 10 years old. We’re talking great quality here!
These labels will give you a good idea about what you’re selecting when shopping for brandy. Think of it this way, the older the better, so you can measure your favorite brand (or pick at random or by reference from a friend) and select the quality you want by picking the one with the best label. Of course, you’ll want to balance that against how much you’re willing to pay for brandy.
As a new drinker you can experiment with the lower grades and work your way up. If you start high and find you’re not a brandy drinker, you’ve already spent more money then you should have. A V.S label of Christian Brothers VS will run you around USD $9.50 and the next quality will push USD $15.00 which isn’t too costly to step up in grade.
How is brandy different from wine? Wine is going to be roughly 8%-12% alcohol by volume while brandy will run around 30%, a significant difference in alcohol content! Other than that, brandy can be distilled from something other than grapes, such as apples, plums, raspberries, blackberries, peaches and cherries. It may also be made from the remains of a grape but not the grape itself. The three types of brandy are:
- Grape Brandy: Mostly a California based brandy since we’ve got tons of vineyards in California. A few popular brands: Christian Brothers, Coronet, E&J, Paul Masson and Korbel. If the label doesn’t state the type of brand, there is a good chance it’s a grape.
- Pomace Brandy: Fermented pulp, seeds, skins, stalks and other grape parts. Press the remains for their juices and you’ve got a pomace brandy. Italians make a pomace brandy called grappa. These brandy’s are not usually aged.
- Fruit Brandy: Brandy made of fruit!! Typically chilled over ice before drinking, fruit brandy is usually clear and higher in alcohol content (80 or 90 proof). This brandy’s are not usually aged.
Okay, so what is Cognac? This is a French brandy double distilled and aged for 2-years in French oak barrels. Cognac is a grape style brandy and is quiet tasty.
Now you’re ready to grab some eggnog, coffee or other mixed solution to make for a great time. Brandy makes a good party even better and gives you the feeling of being high-class and schooled in the ways of liquor.