Brandy is a spirit created by distilling wine that was created by using fermented grapes, although some brands are created using pomace and/or fermented fruit. It has an alcohol content that usually ranges between 36 and 60 percent, and is usually consumed after a meal.

The name brandy is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, or brandywine, which translates to mean burnt wine.

Brandy has been around for quite some time, and its origins are fairly clear. History shows that brandy can be associated with the development of the distillation process. Ancient Rome and Greece were known for having alcoholic beverages that were concentrated. In fact, the history of stuck drinks could possibly be traced all the way back to Babylon.

The spirit that we know today first came onto the scene during the 12th century, although it didnít really gain popularity until the 14th century. At that time, wine was first preserved through distillation so that merchants would have an easier time transporting it. In addition, distillation was also thought to have been used in order to cut taxes, which were given to drinks based on their volume.

The distillation process removed water from the wine, but it was supposed to be added back in before being drunk. However, it was found that the spirit actually had an improved taste and composition after being stored inside of the wooden casks. It seems that brandy was almost created accidentally, although it is one mistake that many people are glad was made.

Today three main brandy varieties are available:

  • Grape brandy is produced via fermented grape distillation.
  • Fruit brandy is created by distilling other types of fruit, such as peaches, plums, cherries, apples, blackberries, etc.
  • Pomace brandy is produced by fermenting and distilling the stems, skins, and seeds left behind from the grapes once their juices have been extracted.

When created, one of three methods is used to age the brandy:

  • Some fruit brandies and most pomace brandies are not aged at all before being bottled. These are usually colorless and clear.
  • Those varieties with a brown or golden color are single barrel aged in oak casks. However, some varieties have had caramel color added in order to make it appear as if it has been aged in a barrel.
  • Some brandy varieties, often those that come from Spain, are aged via the Solera Process.

Just as there are several types of brandies and aging processes, there are also several different ratings. The rating system is used to describe the condition and quality of a brandy. Those found on a brandy label include:

  • A.C. indicates that the brandy has been aged in wood for two years.
  • V.S. stands for Very Special. This 3-star variety has been aged in wood for a minimum of three years.
  • V.S.O.P. is short for Very Special Old Pale. This 5-star variety has been aged in wood for a minimum of 5 years.
  • X.O. means Extra Old, and has been aged for a minimum of six years.
  • Vintage brandy was kept in the cask up until it was bottled. The label will indicate the brandyís vintage date.
  • Hors díage are brandies so old that an actual date cannot be determined. Typically, this type has been aged for at least ten years and is of a superb quality.

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