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The origins of French Brandy can be traced as early as the 13th century in the region of Armagnac. Arnaud de Villeneuve, physician to the Pope, was the first to describe the distillation of wine, way back in 1285.
Brandy is basically a distilled wine. An attempt ship wine in a condensed form in medieval times, resulted in this spirit's name. The term "Brandy" comes from Holland. The Dutch called this new spirit, "Brandewijn" which means, "burnt wine". Though Brandy can be made anywhere, the true roots belong to France. Brandy became the traditional after dinner drink that the men reposed to after dinner in "civilized times". In my opinion, I think women invented this so they wouldn't have to smell the cigars that it lends itself so amiably too. Today, it is once again gaining popularity as a cocktail or straight up in a snifter or tulip glass, in the best of Cigar lounges sipped with pleasure by both, women and men.
Carmel 100 Brandy was first released in 1982 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the founding of Carmel in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The minimum age statement on the label is eight years, yet additional components in the blend account for up to twenty five years old. The Brandy is made mainly from Colombard grapes, the same grapes used in the production of Cognac and Armagnac while a smaller portion of Emerald Riesling and Chenin Blanc grapes are also used. All grapes are grown in the coastal regions of Israel. The Carmel 100 has a slightly rusty color and in the nose it offers a rich fruity sensation with an aroma of dried fruits. It finishes with a warm and long lingering finish.
The Armagnac region lies in the sandier soils of Southwestern France. The Romans introduced wine growing to this region with their conquer in the fifth century. Produce from the vineyards of the Gascony region is used. Traditionally, Armagnac is distilled once in a still called an alambic. No sugar is added and the barrels used for the twelve to twenty or more years of aging, are made from a black oak from Gascony. The result is a "velvet flame" (smooth but fiery) flavor. Commercial process now allows a double distillation which, can render product in just a few years. One can however spend $2,500 for an 1893 Bas Armagnac bottled in 1992.
Armagnac is produced through the distillation of white grapes harvested from an appellation estate in the famous Armagnac region in France. The wine is then distilled continuously through an Armagnac still. It then proceeds to the maturation phase in oak casks for at least 1 year. The Armagnac Sempe VSOP is characterized by an initial aromatic scent of stewed fruit and wood, and when in the mouth, this fine Cognac d'Armagnac offers a taste of dried fruit and spices. It finishes with a wonderful flavor and aftertaste.
Normandy is home to cheese, apples, cider, and Calvados. The Calvados region is named after a Spanish Armada galleon, El Calvador. It is said that Calvados is the finest Apple Brandy in the world. An ancient tradition in Normandy is to serve this as a digestive in the middle of the meal. It lends itself well in cooking, cocktails, and as an after dinner drink. Aged cider is double distilled and aged a minimum of two to three years. Though it may carry a vintage, sometimes it is blended with older Calvados in the aging process.
The roots of Cognac are within a legend of a Knight of the Cognac region in the 16th century. He thought he might burn in hell once for murdering his unfaithful wife, and a second time for killing her lover. Thus he "burnt his wine" twice and put it in the cellar. It was found some five years later and obviously feeling better about his fate, he entertained. News of this new process spread throughout the region and they were soon all using this process to turn their acidic poor wine into "Cognac". News didn't stop here. Cognac became synonymous with fine brandy. In 1909, the French declared only Brandy made in the immediate surrounding area of the town of Cognac. Most commercial Cognacs are aged under ten years; Cognac is best aged up to 50 years. In the aging process, some evaporation takes place. This is commonly referred to as "the Angel's share".
VS = Very Special (Aged a minumum of two and a half years.)
VSOP = Very Superior Old Pale (Aged a minimum of four and a half years.)
XO = Extra Old
Martell is a manufacturer of premium Cognac founded by Jean Martell in 1715.Martell Cognac has a unique blend of fresh fruit, nuts and spices. Its styled, luxurious packaging and architectural design make it the perfect expression for individuals seeking to build and leave a mark in history, to create their own sophisticated and inspired world. Martell Extra Old XO Cognac is rare, exclusive and reserved for connoisseurs. Today, Martell Extra is promoted under the signature Martell Creation Grand Extra, as a testimony to the creative spirit of Jean Martell.
Eaux de vie
Eaux de vie, which translated means "water of life". It is made from the finest of fruits. It is hardly ever aged and thus is a clear liquid. If not bottled right away, it stays in pottery or glass containers to preserve the clarity. Three different kinds of plum in France are used to make Mirabelle, Reine-Claude, and Quetsch. Other fruits such as raspberries (Framboise), pears (de Poire), strawberries (Fraise), blackberries (Mure Sauvage), and others are also made. Eaux de vie is best served chilled as an after dinner drink.
Marc, pronounced "mar" is produced from grape pulp that is left over after they are pressed. It can be made anywhere, but is best known to be produced in Burgundy. In Italy it is called Grappa.
(c) 2013 Kathy Hamlin