Brandy, or sometimes known as brandewijn, originates from the distillation of wine. Distillers use a wide variety of wines to craft the spirit. So yes, brandy can, and often does, come from grapes. Besides grapes, distillers use other fruits ingredients like apricot, peach, apples, pear, cherry and plum, too. That's how they make fruit brandies (think: beloved favorites, apple brandy and peach brandy) 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. At minimum, brandy needs to age for two years. 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 this distilled spirit accidentally centuries ago while trying recipes 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."
Brandy is to Cognac sort of what sparkling wine is to Champagne. By that we mean all Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac must be made in the Cognac region of France, while brandy can be made anywhere.
Similar to the Cognac vs brandy situation - pisco is brandy. It's made the same way - by distilling fermented grape juice into the spirit we know. The difference between pisco and brandy is that pisco must be made in Peru or Chile.
Brandy and armagnac are similar in the sense that they're both made from white wine grapes. The big difference between the two is distillation. Brandy is twice distilled - usually using what's called a pot still. Armagnac on the other hand goes through a different distillation called column distillation.
Yes - though you can sometimes see them called liqueur or schnapps. You'll see this most often with fruit brandys, like apple, cherry and peach.
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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