Brandies, that receive the name Brandy from Brandywine, “burnt wine” in dutch, are a selection of spirits that are elaborated from distilled wine. There are two general varieties of wine brandy, one being aged in wooden casks and another being colored using caramel coloring, so as to end up with a color that is very similar to that of it aged counterpart. There is also a third less common variety that uses a combination of the two aforementioned methods.
Even though the name brandy denotes a grape brandy, there are also two other varieties that are commonly referred to with the same term: Fruit brandies, distilled from a selection of fruit, receiving the name Eau-de-vie in France, and Pomace brandies, called Marc in both England and France, that is distilled from the remnants left behind after pressing the grapes for their juice.
History of brandies
All though brandies date as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, it is generally believed that what is now considered the brandy liquor dates from some time between the 10th and 12th century, having become rather popular in the 14th century.
As to the reasons behind its discovery, it is not at all clear what the intention was, but it is generally believed that the basic idea was to dry wine to make it easier to transport from one location to another by extracting all water, that would later be added anew. Over time the merchants discovered that transporting the distilled wine in wooden caskets changed the flavor of the wine all together.
This process was improved over the years as different woods and aging were tested to find out the quality of the resulting product.
Where is brandy produced and which varieties have appeared
Since the vast majority of brandies are distilled from grapes it is not at all strange that the areas where brandy is produced are the same as those where the most important wines are produced, starting of mainly in France and Spain in Europe, then moving to other countries and regions that are well known for their wine productions like California in USA or South Africa.
Over the years brandy has expanded to new areas receiving specific names in each area in which it is produced. Some of the most important are Brandy de Jerez (Spain), Cognac (denoting a specific area of France that uses a double distillation in pot stills), Armagnac (the southwest of France) and Metaxa, that is a Greek variety of Brandy that has the honor of being the first alcoholic spirit that was drunk in space.
Brandies are generally considered to be an after-dinner drink that is served in a specially designed glass. This special glass is called a sniffer, or balloon, can easily be recognized due to its short stem and its vessel with a very wide bottom and a narrow top, which it heated before the brandy is poured.
It is considered to be good manners to let the brandy sit for a few minutes before sniffing its aroma, slowly stirring the liquid with a small movement of the wrist, then drinking the brandy in small sips so as to appreciate all the flavor of the liquor.
Fruit brandies and Pomace brandies
Unlike their grape counterpart fruit and pomace brandies have appeared in many regions all over the world, something that is specially significant in the case of the fruit brandies.
Among the fruit brandies it is possible to find varieties based on plenty of different fruits, some of the most common being apple, peaches, plums, cherries and blackberries. It is normally colorless and served chilled. Some of the noteworthy fruit brandies are:
- Applejack, distilled from hard cider in America.
- Rakia, name that brandy from apple, pears, cherries and other fruits receives in Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as nearby countries.
- German Schnaps.
When it comes to important Pomace brandy or marc, that is fermented and distilled from the residue left behind after grapes for wine is pressed. It is neither aged nor colored. Some of the best known are:
- Italian grappa
- Greek tsipouro
- Spanish orujo