Cognac and brandy appraisal

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Mearto Specialist:


Delia has nearly 30 years of experience at regional and international auction houses in the United States, and is also currently the editor of an art and antiques trade publication that tracks market trends, auctions and antiques shows. Delia is a generalist in glass, ceramics, silver and other metals, fine art, textiles, antiquities, wines and spirits, stamps and currency, collectibles and dolls and toys. Additionally, she is a specialist in 15th to 21st Century furniture from around the world. Her extensive professional network of appraisers, curators, dealers and collectors has proven to be an invaluable resource in her work for Mearto.

Brandy and Cognac are both types of distilled spirits that fall under the broader category of brandy. Brandy is a spirit made by distilling fermented fruit juice, most commonly derived from grapes, but it can also be produced from other fruits like apples, pears, and cherries. Cognac, on the other hand, is a specific type of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France, adhering to strict regulations and standards.


  • Production: Brandy is produced by fermenting fruit juice (usually grapes) to create wine, and then distilling the wine to concentrate the alcohol. The distilled liquid is aged in wooden casks, which imparts flavors and colors to the final product.
  • Varieties: There are various types of brandy, each named based on the fruit used in its production. For example, grape brandy is the most common and includes well-known types like Cognac and Armagnac.
  • Uses: Brandy can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or used in cocktails and culinary applications. It is known for its complex flavors, which develop during the aging process.


  • Origin: Cognac is a specific type of grape brandy produced in the Cognac region of France, primarily using the Ugni Blanc grape variety. The region's unique climate and soil contribute to the distinct qualities of Cognac.
  • Production Regulations: Cognac production is highly regulated. It must be distilled twice in copper pot stills, aged in French oak barrels for a minimum period (ranging from two to several years depending on the grade), and meet specific criteria related to alcohol content and other factors.
  • Aging Categories: Cognac is classified into different aging categories, such as VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), and XO (Extra Old). These designations indicate the minimum age of the youngest eau-de-vie (distilled wine) in the blend.
  • Flavor Profile: Cognac is known for its nuanced flavors, including notes of fruit, flowers, spices, and oak. The aging process and blending contribute to its complexity.

In summary, while Cognac is a type of brandy, not all brandies are Cognac. Cognac has specific geographical and production requirements that distinguish it from other brandies. Brandy, as a broader category, encompasses a wide range of spirits made from fermented fruit juice, with each type having its own unique characteristics based on the fruit used and the production methods employed.

What makes Cognac and Brandy rare?

When it comes to rare types of brandy or Cognac, collectors and enthusiasts often seek out unique and limited-edition releases that go beyond the standard offerings. Here are some examples of rare types within the brandy and Cognac categories:

Vintage Cognac:

Cognac producers occasionally release vintage-dated expressions, indicating that all the grapes used in the production come from a single year. Vintage Cognacs are rare and can be highly sought after by collectors.

Single Barrel or Single Estate Cognac:

Some Cognac producers release expressions that are sourced from a single barrel or a specific estate. These limited releases showcase the uniqueness of a particular batch or vineyard, making them rare and distinctive.

Limited Edition Cognac:

Distillers may release limited editions to commemorate special occasions or anniversaries. These releases often feature unique packaging, rare blends, or special finishes, and they are produced in limited quantities, adding to their rarity.

Old and Rare Cognac:

Cognac that has been aged for an extended period, sometimes several decades, can be considered rare. Old and rare Cognacs often exhibit complex flavors and command high prices in the market.

Experimental Cognac:

Some producers create experimental Cognacs by trying unique production techniques or utilizing non-traditional cask finishes. These experimental releases are typically produced in small batches and can be sought after by collectors looking for something innovative.

Pre-Phylloxera Cognac:

Extremely rare and highly prized, pre-Phylloxera Cognac comes from grapes that were harvested before the onset of the Phylloxera epidemic, which devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century. These Cognacs are exceptionally scarce and offer a glimpse into historical winemaking.

Single Grape Varietal Cognac:

While most Cognacs are blends of various grape varieties, some producers release Cognacs made exclusively from a single grape varietal. These expressions showcase the specific characteristics of the chosen grape and are relatively rare.

Limited Release Armagnac:

Armagnac, another type of grape brandy produced in Gascony, France, also has limited releases. These may include vintage Armagnacs, single cask releases, or special editions that showcase the diversity of the region.

Craft or Artisanal Brandy:

Craft distilleries may produce artisanal brandies in small batches, experimenting with unique ingredients and production methods. These craft brandies can be rare due to limited production quantities.

Historical or Commemorative Releases:

Some rare brandies and Cognacs are released to commemorate historical events or milestones in the producer's history. These releases often come with special packaging and may include rare vintages.

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