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Brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn—"burnt wine") is a spirit produced by distilling wine, the wine having first been produced by fermenting grapes.


Brandy dates back to the seventh century when Arab alchemists explored boiling and burning fruits, such as grapes, in order to create medical concoctions.

Later, in the 16th century, Dutch traders borrowed these methods to make a wine concentrate and carry the wine in smaller quantities.

After these traders introduced brandy to northern Europe, brandy production began to take place.

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Grape Brandy

Grape brandy, one of the best-known types, comes in forms including cognac, Armagnac and American. As its name suggests, this liquor is produced from grape juice and is double distilled and aged in wooden casks to produce brands such as Martell and Hennessey. Producers of the grape version are found throughout the world including France, South Africa and Mexico. Enjoy this brandy at room temperature in a snifter glass.

Pomace Brandy

Grapes are also used in the production of pomace brandy; however, this brandy also uses the grape pulp, skin and stems. This type is aged less than other brandies, without the aid of wooden barrels, so that it offers a pungent, crisp flavor true to the fruit from which it is derived. Said to be an acquired taste, pomace brandy comes in forms such as the French marc and Italian grappa and is often produced in California, Italy and Canada.

Brandy can also be made from fermented fruit.

The fruit brandy is derived from fruits other than grapes, such as apricots and cherries, and produces a clear liquid. The most common fruit type is produced in the Normady region of France where they use apples to create "calvados," which is an apple brandy that is fermented with yeast and double distilled. Fruit brandies are also concocted in the United States and Germany and generally consumed chilled or on ice.

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Brandy generally contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. While some brandies are aged in wooden casks, most are colored with caramel coloring to imitate the effect of such aging.

Brandy has a traditional quality rating system, although its use is unregulated outside of Cognac and Armagnac. These indicators can usually be found on the label near the brand name:

  • V.S.: "Very Special" or 3-Star, aged at least three years in wooden casks.
  • V.S.O.P.: "Very Superior Old Pale" or 5-Star, aged at least five years in wooden casks.
  • X.O.: "Extra Old", Napoleon or Vieille Reserve, aged at least six years, Napoleon at least four years.
  • Vintage: Stored in the cask until the time it is bottled with the label showing the vintage date.
  • Hors d'age: These are too old to determine the age, although ten years plus is typical, and are usually of great quality.


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