Conversations At The Airport Lounge: Of France’s Champagne & Cognac
Bar Talk: VSOP and XO?
I was sitting at this bar at the airport’s executive lounge waiting to meet someone when this discussion or should I call it arguement about Cognac arose.
It then dovetailed into the difference between VSOP and XO, then Cognac and Champagne. Because rich people love to hear the sound of their voices, especially when they are in an “unwind” mode , I kept my peace and my distance.
Then one looked towards my direction to earn support asking for my opinion. I started by highlighting the geography of those luxury drinks. Surprisingly, only one of them know that Cognac is a name of a region in France, same as Champagne.
With our cups refilled, I pointed out that the French are masters of elevating their “haute culture” to a universal ritual thus the propensity to ensure their culture remains pure and unadulterated.
Thats why they will always insist that a Cognac must be made in the Cognac region of France for it to be qualified to be a Cognac, same way as Champagne. They tell whosoever cares to listen that the soil structure in that region cannot be found anywhere, so the grapes and fruits grown there are unique to those regions. What this means is that if you want to invest in that industry, you must do so in France.
And to rub it in, they have the saying that while a Brandy can be made anywhere, a Cognac can only be made in Cognac. Technically, a Cognac is still a Brandy.
Brandy generally refers to a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit juice, it can be produced using grapes or other fruits.
By now my cup was getting empty, the bar man did the needful. I started feeling like one of James Hardly Chase characters, the man with an ear to the ground whom you can get any information from as long as his beer bottle is not empty.
I told them that the French love coinage, they come up with anything and ensure such endures for life.
VSOP means Very Superior Old Pale referring to the ageing process of the fruits. VSOP Cognacs are created from eaux-de-vie, (another coinage to make it sound too important) eaux-de-vie in English literally means water or life. Imagine this people. But thats typically French.
VSOP are from eaux-de-vie that are from four years and above, they have designations such as Old and Reserve.
XO on the other hand stands for Extra Old. They are made from eaux-de-vie that are at least six years and above.
It is said that Cognac is to Brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine.
Victor Hugo once referred to Cognac as the drink of the gods.
In 1818 for the future King George IV of Great Britain was so mesmerized by Cognac that Hennessy created the Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilege in his honour. The VSOP Privilege was a first for the industry, creating a new classification and setting a benchmark for all cognac makers as a sign of elevated quality and aging.
Connoisseurs say that it is best to drink Cognac with a thin narrow glass, this is because its narrow shape helps to capture the richness of the Cognac and less of the alcohol.
When we return, we will look at the stiff competition between Hennessy and Rémy Martin.Two of the most illustrious and successful creators of world’s best Cognacs.
Rémy Martin was founded in 1724 while Hennessy was founded in 1765.
When I read or hear about a bottle of “ordinary drink” with a price tag of $1-$2 million.
I faint, but the French can create anything from nothing.
Words By Kelechi Deca