Got it! So, then what's cognac?
All cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.
Since brandy is such a broad term for fermenting fruit juices, there are naturally an invariable amount of subsets of liquor inside that general framework. Cognac is one of them -- and likely the most well known.
Cognac is specifically created in the Cognac region, in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments, of Southwest France. If it doesn't originate there, it isn't real cognac. But, there are even more qualifications that the spirit must uphold to be considered true cognac.
First, the fruit juice base must originate from white grapes of one of six different terriers, but primarily, the main grape used is called ugni blanc. Cognac then goes through two separate rounds of distillation, and both rounds are legally required to happen between October 1 and March 31. If you finish your distilling process after midnight on March 31, you've got invalid cognac on your soiled hands.
Despite the apparent specificity, there are three separate qualifications of cognac, marked by symbols you'll often see on bottles and barrels, based around aging:
- VS: "Very Special," a cognac that's aged for at least two years
- VSOP: "Very Superior Old Pale," a cognac that's aged for at least four years.
- XO: "Extra Old," a cognac that has aged six years, or more.
Bottom line: Cognac is a type of brandy made from distilled white wine, made in one, very specific, region of France.