Brandy, alcoholic beverage distilled from wine or a fermented fruit mash. The term used alone generally refers to the grape product; brandies made from the wines or fermented mashes of other fruits are commonly identified by the specific fruit name. With the exception of certain fruit types, known as white types, brandies are usually aged. Aging in wooden containers deepens colour to amber, the use of paraffin-lined casks or earthenware maintains the original clear colour, and the addition of a caramel solution darkens colour. Beverage brandy contains about 50 percent alcohol by volume; brandy used to fortify sherry, Madeira, and the other dessert wines contains about 80–95 percent alcohol by volume. Like other distilled liquor, brandy does not improve after bottling. Star or letter designations, formerly indicating age, are used by shippers to express product quality.
Cognac & Armagnac
Cognac is a brandy specifically made from wine in the Cognac region of France. The primary grape used to make Cognac is Ugni Blanc, though smaller amounts of Folle Blanche (also called Picpoul) and Colombard are allowed.
Armagnac is more rustic in production, which results in a full-flavored brandy that importer Charles Neal, of Charles Neal Selections, calls “a bit more…forward and punchy.” The brandy used to produce Armagnac was made historically by roving distillers. Stills in tow, they would travel to farms in the hinterlands, allowing the farmers to make brandy from their wine without having to buy equipment of their own.
Grappa is obtained by distilling the grape pomace, which is the solid part of the grape (skins and seeds), while a Grape Brandy is obtained by distilling the fermented grape, therefore the solid and liquid part of the grape together.
As a result, the grape brandy is placed halfway between a Grappa (obtained by distilling a solid raw material like grape pomace) and a Wine Brandy (obtained by distilling a liquid raw material such as wine), being distilled from both the solid and the liquid part.
Fruit Brandy is the default term for all Brandies that are made from fermenting fruit other than grapes. Fruit Brandies, except those made from berries, are generally distilled from fruit wines. Berries tend to lack enough sugar to make a wine with sufficient alcohol for proper distillation, and thus are soaked (macerated) in high-proof spirit to extract their flavor and aroma. The extract is then distilled once at a low proof.