It is the distillation process that allows us to transform our grape juice into eau-de-vie. But it is the oak wood that will allow the eau-de-vie to become Cognac. During its aging, the eau-de-vie meets the oak wood. The aging of Cognac in oak barrels will bring a complexity of aromas, which, depending on the years, will allow the winegrower to develop unique Cognac.
The choice of oak wood in the ageing of Cognac
The Cognac designation has selected two types of oak wood. The main difference comes from the density of plantation of the forests, influencing the annual growth of the tree. The grain, that is, the width between the different tree rings formed during the growth of the oak, will be more or less tight.
- In the Forest of Tronçais, the high sessile oak stands are tight, and the ages are similar. The grain will be fine and will offer rather soft tannins.
- On the other hand, in Limousin, the pedunculate oaks are of variable age and less thick. The grain will be less tight and the trunk less high, the tannic contribution will be more important.
The phenomenon of evaporation: the angels' share
During the aging process, Cognac extracts compounds from the wood. It is thanks to this alchemy and happy blend that Cognac will enrich its aromatic notes. Aromatic notes that we find in the famous wheel of aromas.
- The first phenomenon is extraction.Our new eaux-de-vie are first put in new barrels for about 6 months. It is during this period that the main woody notes are extracted. The brandy which was colorless at the exit of the still, is colored little by little.
- The second phenomenon is oxidation and hydrolysis, which also contribute to this magical process. Once the first 6 months have passed in new barrels, we proceed to a rotation. The contents are transferred to barrels called "fût roux" (red barrels) which have already been used for the eau-de-vie. Gradually, the tannins of the barrel blend with the fruity and floral notes of the Cognac. The alcohol evaporates, the eau-de-vie becomes softer and the aromas become more complex.
The evaporation of the alcohol reduces the degree of our eaux-de vie. This phenomenon is called "the angels' share".
All our eaux-de-vie are stored in our century-old cellars. They have the specificity of being relatively humid.
Unlike drier cellars, this atmosphere allows our eaux-de-vie to lose their alcohol content more quickly. Thus, our Cognacs will be more mellow and will have a greater aromatic persistence.
Did you know ? This evaporation process has created a fungus called Torula compniacensis, which turns the ageing cellars black and can be observed from the outside.
The aging capacity of Grande Champagne Cognac offers a great capacity to age the eaux-de-vie produced on our estate.
Our article on the geology of Grande Champagne will help you understand the particularities of this area and why the best Cognacs are made here
Cognac ageing: VS, VSOP, XO
As explained in our article: How to choose a Cognac, several age counts exist. These age references will allow to differentiate the age of a bottle of Cognac from another one.
It is the producer who will decide, according to several criteria, which Cognac from their production will become a VS, a VSOP, or an XO.
Each reference defines the number of years that the Cognac has spent in oak barrels. In order to carry the label "Cognac", the eau-de-vie must remain in casks for a minimum of 2 years. We have created an article to recognise the different ages of Cognac.
Finally, it is important to know that the aging of Cognac takes place in barrels, in contact with the oak. Once in the bottle, the Cognac will not age anymore.
The aging of Cognac is complex, each producer will offer unique products (different blends, different aging). It is by going to meet them that you will understand the work and the subtleties of their Cognac.