Understanding a Cognac labelBLENDING
A Cognac can be identified by the information on its label
This can be
● optional, but regulated
● optional, but they must be justifiable
The appellation Cognac, Eau-de-vie de Cognac, or Eau-de-vie des Charentes must be stated on the label
This is the denomination under which it is sold.
AOC wine spirits can use the word “Fine”
This term provides no additional information (with the exception of Fine Champagne, which will be explained later), except that it can only be used for Appellation Contrôlée eaux-de-vie made from wine or cider.
Cognac is traditionally created by blending eaux-de-vie of different ages and crus
This is not, however, mandatory.
100% of the eaux-de-vie in a blend must come from the cru indicated on the label
When 100% of the eaux-de-vie in a blend comes from a single cru (regional appellation), the cru can be indicated according to the following rule: “For the names of regional appellations (crus), place the word Cognac then the name of the cru between the words “Appellation” and “Contrôlée”. Example: “Appellation Cognac Petite Champagne Contrôlée”.
“Appellation Cognac Fine Champagne Contrôlée”
Eaux-de-vie sourced exclusively from Grande Champagne (minimum 50%) and Petite Champagne.
Ageing designations are based on the age of the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend
Cognac may not be released to market without being aged in cask for at least 2 years, calculated from April 1 of the year following the harvest.
– mentions or initials such as VS, VSOP, XO,…
NB. : The age of an eau-de-vie corresponds to the period during which it has matured in oak casks. In contrast to wine, eau-de-vie virtually ceases to age as soon as it is transferred to a glass container. A Cognac will always be the same age it was when bottled.
Ageing designations are optional indications, regulated in application of European Community legislation.
● *** (3-star) or VS (Very Special): The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is
at least 2 years old (compte 2)
● VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is
at least 4 years old (compte 4)
● Napoléon, XO (Extra Old)**, Extra**, Hors d’âge**: The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is
at least 6 years old (compte 6)
** As of 2016 these designations are expected to require compte 10 for the younger eau-de-vie
In general, each Cognac house uses eaux-de-vie much older than the minimum requirement in their blends.
Those bearing the most prestigious designations may have aged for decades.
A ruling of the Government Commissioner to the BNIC (1983 decision) codifies the designations to be used based on the age of the Cognacs that make up a blend.