Monday, October 29, 2012

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California XO Brandies Fare Well Against Cognac

Claret is the liquor for boys; 
port for men; 
but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy. 
In the first place the flavour of brandy is most grateful to the palate 
and then brandy will do soonest for a man what drinking can do for him.
 There are indeed few who are able to drink brandy. 
That is a power rather to be wished for than attained.

~ ascribed to Samuel Johnson in Boswell's 1791 Life of Johnson

Elin McCoy's recent piece for Bloomberg pits California brandies against Cognacs which for centuries has stood as France's ne plus ultra brandy. The subcategory under review is XO, the "extra old" brandies that spend at least six years (and sometimes decades) in barrels and which may be a blend of dozens of brandies.

McCoy writes:
With only five serious producers, California was the underdog in this competition against six French bottlings. Cognac is home to four giant global brands and hundreds of small family distilleries, and only brandy made there can be named after that region. Like producers in Cognac, the Californians double distill wine in traditional copper pot stills. The big difference is the grapes. Cognac is restricted to ugni blanc (for roundness), colombard (for depth) and folle blanche (for finesse). Any varieties can be used in California. 
For the blind tasting, she brought together Falvian Desoblin, founder of New York's Brandy Library, Jason Hopple, beverage director of New York’s North End Grill, and wine collector Stuart Leaf. The California distilleries represented in their blind tasting include Osocalis, Etude (which sells remaining XO inventory made by Remy Martin on the premises), Germain-Robin, Jepson, and Charbay. Their finding? A Cognac — Jean Fillioux XO Grande Reserve — just beat out the American offerings.

Here they are discussing the selections. Link to the original article with ratings and prices after the video.

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