Brandy originates from the distillation of wine. Distillers use a wide variety of wines to craft the spirit, including fruit wines from apples, pears, cherries, plums and other fruits. That's how they make fruit brandies with many different notes like applejack and French eau-de-vie.
After the distilling process, the producers let brandy age in a wooden casket, so the liquor achieves its typical caramel color. If the producer chooses a casket they already used for other liquors, the spirit will have a more complex flavor. Most fruit brandies are unaged.
Winemakers invented brandy accidentally centuries ago while trying to make their wines more "compact" to ship them more easily. They wanted to remove some of the water from the wines to transport them more easily, then add the same amount of water once the barrels reached their destinations.
Soon, they realized this distilled spirit had a way more complex flavor than the original wine. They changed their minds: instead of watering it down again, they started to sell it as "brandy."
What does VS and VSOP mean?
These are ratings to determine the age of a brandy. VS brandies have aged at least three years, while the VSOP brandies have aged at least four years. VS stands for "very special" and VSOP for "very special old pale." There are also XO (extra old) brandies, which age for at least six and a half years. Lastly, there are Hors d'Age or vintage spirit aged brandies that originated 10 years or more before sale.
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