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How does Cognac get to this…

Frapin cognac

…from this?

Old cognac

I didn’t know, but I was determined to taste as many glasses as I could to find out.

The first thing I was asked before heading down into my first Cognac cellar during my recent visit was, “Are you afraid of spiders?”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

So I wasn’t concerned about finding a few cobwebs here and there. But was surprised to find that a veritable witches den’s-worth of them everywhere, heavily cloaking many of the very old bottles strewn about, as well as the wooden casks. I’d supposed that it would be futile to try to brush away cobwebs in a dark, humid cellar. But I was told that the spiders were actually necessary since the wooden casks often remain down there for decades, and the spiders feed on the other pests that would burrow through the wood.

The mold covered casks below? I didn’t ask how they unearthed those. And I wasn’t anxious to stick around for a demonstration, either.

Cognac mold

I was thrilled to be invited along on a tasting trip to Cognac, to learn about how it’s made, and unbeknownst to me, to attend tastings day & night—beginning shortly after I woke up, to the moment when my head hit the pillow, well after midnight.

One question that I came with in my notebook was, “What’s the difference between Cognac and armagnac?” Both are two of the most famous brandies from France, even though France only accounts for 3% of worldwide Cognac consumption. (Singapore is #2, and the United States is #1.)

cognac glasses distiller

Both Cognac and armagnac are distillations, which means the grapes (in the form of unfiltered wine, which resembles cloudy grape juice) are cooked and the wet steam that rises off is collected. For Cognac, that distillation is distilled again. Armagnac doesn’t get a second one. That doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other. It just means they go through a different process.

The other difference is the armagnac is made from folle blanche grapes and Cognac is from ugni blanc, a variety which doesn’t make good wine, and is used exclusively for the production of Cognac.

bottles of cognac

I’ve gotten many quizzical looks when people ask, “Who makes the best chocolate?” or “What’s the best chocolate shop in Paris?” There really isn’t any answer, since my “best” might not be yours. I have a changeble roster of favorites, like I now have with Cognac.

We had some Cognacs that cost €200 a sip (of that particular Cognac, only 300 bottles were produced annually and, of course, was high up in that roster of favorites), and tasted others that cost less than €2 for a similar-sized dribble. I learned to appreciate the differences, and through guided tastings of multiple Cognacs, tasted nuances of prunes, dark cherries, cloves and cigars, eucalyptus, and agave. Curiously, the older Cognacs have what’s called rancio, a beguiling flavor that is musty, nutty, and peat-like. It was hard to pin down exactly what it was, but once I was able to detect it, I was able to appreciate the longer-aged Cognacs, where that earthy flavor was more present.

exclusif cognac Ugni grapes

To make Cognac, the clear distillation of the grapes (eaux-de-vie) is aged in handcrafted oak casks for a minimum of two years. Each cask is watertight, made without nails or glue, but it’s slightly porous, allowing 3-4% evaporation a year, called “The angels share”. On the average, it takes about 8 liters of the distillation to end up with 1 liter of Cognac.

Pierre Ferrand copper bucket

Depending on the cellar master, the liquor is tasted during the aging process and the Cognac is blended with other batches, new and old, to come up with the taste that the producer is looking for. It can be transferred to several different barrels during the process, like balsamic vinegar, being concentrated as it goes from larger barrels to progressively smaller ones.

courvoisier tasting

This tasting trip was pretty tough. We were out the door of our hotel rooms each morning at 9:30am and spent the day walking through dark cellars, then ending up in the tasting room, pausing only to down some bread and perhaps a few scraps of foie gras, to sop up the liquor.

spidery cognac Cognac tasting

As much I was got my fill, I was determined to taste whatever was offered. It was my duty. At Pierre Ferrand, Jason Wilson, the engaging wine and spirits writer for the Washington Post, leaned over and told me that the glass I was absentmindedly fondling would set me back about $250, which was for about a tablespoon-full of the amber liquid.

I’m not a connoisseur of Cognac, or any spirit for that matter, but one sip of the precious and exquisite liquid was enough to have me put in a call to my publisher and ramp up the price of my next book. Like, by a few hundred dollars. Sorry.


Another thing that you might not know is that when you see a Champagne Truffle, that doesn’t mean that the chocolate is mixed with the famed bubby. Champagne, petite and grande, are two regions of Cognac: “champagne” is derived from a French term for “chalky soil”, and refers to where many of the grapes are grown, which are used for Cognac as well as Champagne, the sparkling wine.

cognac desserts for blog

A few other misconceptions about Cognac?

You can sell those bulky, cabinet-hogging brandy snifters at your next yard sale. Cognac tastes best in slender, fluted tulip glasses. (You can find them in liquor stores.)

They do say the best way to evaluate Cognac is when it’s at room temperature, but you’re not a rube if you drop an ice cube in there. The ice dilutes the alcohol, and it’s reduced presence allows the more subtle flavors to come forward. And like whiskey, you shouldn’t feel awkward about plunking an ice cube in a glass of Cognac and drinking it as an apéritif. In fact, our first night, at Rémy Martin (the only Cognac producer with a woman, Pierrette Trichet, as their cellar master), we sipped Cognac, served iced-down with a cube or two floating around in there, as an apéro.

ancient graffiti,1756

(Grafitti, circa 1756, from an ancient prison wall, which now houses Otard Cognac. There were other scrawlings, which were a bit more racy.)

The other day I was at a wine tasting led by Juan Sanchez of Le Dernier Goûtte, a wine shop in Paris. It was for newcomers to France, to familiarize themselves with French wines and feel comfortable ordering and drinking them. He certainly had his head on straight and when people asked basic questions like, “Is it okay to drink bottles of wine that cost €4?” His response was, “Do you like those bottles of wine? Because if you do, then yes, it’s okay to drink those bottles of wine.”

Erte cognac bottle

Same with Cognac. I don’t think I’ll be drinking many fancy bottles of Cognac—well, at least after the nifty bottle of Cognac Ferrrand which was distilled in 1972 that the owner gave me after we had dinner with him. But I definitely got a funny look when were we at Courvoisier and I tasted their new Exclusif Cognac, which is meant to be blended into cocktails.

I got at hose looks from folks who know more about wine and spirits than I do. But I liked it. (In fact, I’m sipping some now, and nibbling on a tablet of Amano Jembrana chocolate.) And I’m content. Yes, the “good ones” taste better. But like M & M’s, they’re not handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate, they’re just different. Enjoy each for what it is.

cognac drinking & blogging

Similar are people who scoff at wine in a box, or screw-top wines which, unless you’re planning on aging your wine (which most people don’t), are perfectly fine to drink and ecological choices as well.

As my Aunt Bunny once told me, “The only time you should be embarrassed in a restaurant is if you can’t pay the bill.”

If you travel throughout France, and visit various winemakers, often locals will stop in, lugging their own jugs to fill up. I didn’t see anyone bringing plastic bidons to Cognac, but I’m considering bringing a few on my next trip.


After this trip, I’m no longer afraid or intimidated by Cognac. And I’m also now completely certain that I’m not afraid of spiders, either. In fact, I’d brave them again for another sip of that very special amber liquid that they’re protecting.

Related Posts and Links

The Coopers of Cognac

Cognac Franpin Visit (

Cognac Enters the Mix (Washington Post)

Cognac Pierre Ferrand Visit (

Reidel Tulip Cognac Glasses (Amazon)

Pineau (Cognac-based apéritif)

A Visit to Courvoisier Cognac (

Cognac Office of Tourism

Cognac Distillers Visited



Rémy Martin


Pierre Ferrand



    • mindy

    Your photographs are gorgeous and the spider-webby one so appropriate for October. I’m glad you did a post on Cognac. I was curious about it of late especially after Kanye West was drinking so much of it prior to his insult of Taylor Swift at the award show last month. Thanks.

    I’m really sorry I didn’t get to make any of your SF appearances.

    • Jessica @ How sWeet It Is

    Wow this is so informative – I never knew you should drink cognac out of those glasses. I really hate spiders tho – don’t know if I could have made it the entire time there!! Thanks for the info! :)

    • Berit

    Like my pre-poster, I adore your photos, not just these ones. Are there bigger versions somewhere available? I tried to use some of your pictures as desktop wallpapers but unfortunately they turned out rather grainy :-(

    • David

    Berit: I host my pictures on Flickr, and if you click on them, it takes you there. I don’t host larger images there mainly because often I have a lot of shots and the download time takes forever (especially with my pokey internet access.)

    mindy: At least he didn’t blame the Cognac for being a knucklehead. The good news is that she’ll likely be around a long time. Longer than others..

    Jessica: I never used those glasses either. They gave me one to bring home, so I need to get a few more. I would imagine liquor stores have them. I did see some online, which weren’t cheap, but I’m sure one could pick up a few for not a lot of money. Lavinia in Paris likely has them, and I may check later this week.

    • krysalia

    I’m really glad to know that they ask about the spider fear before, As appealing as old cognac would be, I think I would pass :) .
    But from here where there’s no spider, I can admit that I find cute and interresting this story of les demoiselles taking good care of the wood parts by eating the parasites. I also want to thank you, David, for not posting any of those demoiselles here, and only their work :D.

    • arugulove

    This was so interesting! I’ve been to Portugal and done a series of interesting tours of the port cellars, learned so much, and really enjoyed it. This looks right up my alley and something I never would have thought to do. Thanks!

    My itinerary for my still non-existent future trip to France just keeps getting longer and longer!

    • barry

    excellent photos and story!

    • Chapot

    Have you tried cognac with an ice cub and Pérrier? gorgeous !

    • Susan

    I like the way your Aunt Bunny thinks..and they way you think, too! It’s true, there is a time and place for everything, from the wine in a box (at the most fun picnic I attended with a group of good friends in my 21’st year) to the long-laid away bottle of Ridge Cabernet (on my 20th aniversary dinner with the man of my dreams) to my current favorites for whichever seems to fit with what I’m serving at a dinner party. It’s all (mostly) good sometime! I’ve enjoyed this series on cognac!

    • john

    Great post, photos & the skinny on cognac. Hope you are keeping a file for a new book (heavily illustrated) called “David’s X Rated France”, something along the lines of Caesar’s Conquests…Food/Chocolate/Booze & Sex really are a winning combination, especially in Gaul.

    • Kate

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to the harder alcohol of France (especially eau de vie). Now I really want to try some cognac — à la David Lebovitz with a tablet of chocolate!

    • Romney Steele

    great story and fascinating too-I just visited one of the oldest vineyards in California–Ridge Vineyards–and we were amazed to see all the mold growing in the original cellar; the winemaker said that they say (in France) it adds to the wine’s character, so they let it go (now over 100 years old).

    There is something about the age old practices and traditions, whether accurate or not, that are riveting. Let’s hope they don’t go to the wayside like some of the old cheeses, and what not. I mean those spiders-that’s wild!!

    and who knew about the stemware.

    • Jessie

    Wow, thanks for all the great info! Love all the pictures–especially the ones from the cellar.

    My favorite thing to do lately with cognac is drizzle a little into potato leek soup right before serving. Flavors are great together and it’s extra warming on cold Boston nights.

    • Ronica

    I just love you. Thank you for your wisdom, and your Aunt Bunny’s. I drink wine in a box, because it’s fine, it’s more ecological, and I can drink one glass with dinner without the whole bottle going bad. It’s nice to hear an “official” foodie give the thumbs up to this practice.

    But don’t worry, I don’t like Lawry’s Season Salt either. :-P (However, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning will have to be pried out of my cold, dead hands.)

    • Laura

    Wow. I think I just figured out who I want to come back as in my next life: David Lebovitz. Not for the experiences, although those would be nice, but for the talent. I’ve been following for a while and I can only wish I’d found you sooner. Living under a rock sure sucks.


    The photos are amazing. This is a very interesting and informative post on cognac. I haven’t gotten into cognac or armagnac, but appreciate knowing the process of how each is crafted and aged.

    I’ll have to keep in mind your Aunt Bunny’s quote as well when I start tasting cognac. If that happened to me, I’d probably shoot back a look that says, “You have no idea what you’re missing out on.” Heck, I’d probably say it out loud!

    I’d be interested in a tasting trip one of these days, I love to scare myself and visiting one of these spider filled caves is just the thrill seeking remedy. Although, starting the tasting at 9:30am is tough!

    • Katy

    David, I adore this post. I have a strange fascination with any information regarding the production of liquor. I love to know the differences between them, where they come from, the traditions surrounding them. What can I say, I love booze. I thought this post did just that! Thank you.

    • Green Key

    Lovely post David. Thank you. I recently purchased a bottle of Courvoisier for making Julia Child’s Coq au Vin. (Yes, I loved the movie and went right out and bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking!) I chose the VSOP – a splurge for me – and I don’t think there will be any left for the next recipe that requires ignition of cognac! Yum.
    I love your Aunt Bunny’s advice!

    • Baked Alaska

    This was an excellent posting David. It was so informative, but fun to read also. Can’t imagine being in those cellars with all of the spiders. Thanks for such a great post.

    • David

    Katy: Thanks! It was interesting for me, too, because I don’t know a lot about how liquors are made. Another thing I found interesting was that since they can’t reuse the Cognac casks for Cognac, some places sell them to rum distillers since they like the residual flavors left over.

    Jessie: I add some to soup as well, especially pumpkin or butternut squash soup, as a rule. Also it’s quite good tippled over vanilla ice cream, just a little. (If you mix and churn it into the ice cream, you lose quite a bit of it’s character.)

    Romney: I was surprised about those little glasses, too. Which is a good thing because I have two brandy snifters and they always hit my big nose when trying to drink out of them!

    • Lynn T.

    This was a fascinating description of your adventure, with lots of news for me, including staying out of such spidery places. I’m sure your tastings were great, but really can anything beat aged cognac with you & Jacques Genin in his chocolate
    workplace at 11:00AM?? Thank you for providing such experiences for us. So glad I saw you even briefly at Charles Chocolates.
    Until next time, Lynn T.

    • Nadege

    Like for everything else, it is nice to get educated. I am not into booze but at least I now know more about Cognac. (Farrah Fawett loved Armagnac).

    • Bernadette

    Oofa, that second photo, added with stories or eight-legged critters and mold, made me hesitate but what an intriguing read. I’ve never had Cognac but you certainly made it interesting! Ah, the Sweet Life indeed for David!

    • Wendy

    How interesting, I had no idea how Cognac was made and it was fascinating to learn. I hope it’s not too gauche to admit that in 38 years of living, I’ve never tried it and have no idea what it tastes like!

    I, too, thank you for not posting pictures of the industrious spiders who are the keepers of the Cognac.

    • sweetbird

    I’d definitely have to do the tasting before the tours – but maybe tipsy AND scared of spiders really wouldn’t go well together.

    • David

    I didn’t realize there was so many of you out there afraid of spiders! I thought the mold was going to give some folks pause.

    To be honest, I didn’t see all that many spiders…just a lot of their handiwork.

    • Janice Leiser

    I’ve have been enjoying your Blog for the last several months since our mutual friend, Shiela Kneiss, of SF recommended your delightful book The Sweet Life in Paris. Shiela and I are taking a French class in Healdsburg together and your wonderful descriptions of Paris, food, cognac etc are inspiring me to study more so I will enjoy France even more on my next trip. I love the WTF moments as well.Of course loved you writing about SF. I’m going to try every burger!

    Many thanks, Janice

    • Dawn in CA

    David, I think the photos in this post are some of my most favorite that you’ve ever posted. They tell a wonderful story, even if you had not written a word. Really great. Of course, your descriptions make the story even better! How cool it must have been to taste Cognac in a 250+ year old building. Wow, my whole country isn’t even that old… ;)

    • Joumana

    Merci David. Now I am no longer afraid to drink cognac if I don’t happen to have the right glass, which turns out not to be the right glass at all! Now, as far as the ice cubes dropped in there, pardonne-moi, mais je ne pourrais jamais le faire!

    • Lola

    Next time, try Calvados ! We were cycling through France in the late 70’s and it was a cold rainy day and we were soaked. We spent our daily food allowance on a great lunch in a little country restaurant, frequented by truck drivers and locals. They dried our clothes and francs over the fire and at the end of the meal we saw everyone drinking an amber liquid. We asked for ‘two of those’ and were knocked out by the aroma and taste. Calva! Sublime!

    • The Gardener’s Eden

    Thank you for this great story. I am really enjoying your coverage of this artisan process, and I love the accompanying photographs in both ‘The Coopers of Cognac’ and this post.

    • The Italian Dish

    David: I don’t usually comment, but this post compelled me. Thanks for the education about the cognac and I will rethink my snifter glasses…hmmm…interesting. But the photo of your laptop with the cognac and the chocolate is priceless. I got a good chuckle out of that. I loved it, for some reason. Thanks.

    • Sophia

    This was one of your best posts ever–and the photos are spectacular!

    Although I don’t drink spirits very often, I do like single malt scotches (thanks to a trip to Edinburgh too many years ago to count when we spent an entire afternoon drinking our way around the pub’s kegs). A good cognac or armagnac is now my preference as an apero and after dinner disgestif. My favorite is Sempe’s Vieil Armagnac (15 years old) which was recommended by one of the wine sellers at La Grande Epicerie. Try it sometime–it is a lovely honey color with a peaty taste. Yum.

    • Diane-The WHOLE Gang

    This is great information. I had a conversation just a few weeks ago with someone trying to get more information on cognac. They were not helpful. This is extremely helpful. I’m glad they didn’t ask me to go to the creepy cognac cellar. I’m really afraid of spiders and would have run the other way. Thanks for taking one for the team and tasting them too.

    I also wanted to say I really enjoyed your comments at the BlogHer Food Conference and for being so kind to take a photo with me and Elizabeth Falkner. It was a great event.

    • LB

    Great to see a down to earth article about cognac for a change. Aged cognac is ‘better’, but it is something which should be treasured and sipped on special occassions, in my view. For regular old drinking nothing beats a good VSOP or VS (or equivalent) cognac.

    • Thea

    David, sweetie, next time in the States, look in high-end thrift or vintage stores for tulip glasses, they’re awash in gorgeous styles.

    Cognac for cocktails, I approve. Chocolate with cognac, wooie. Cognac, chocolate, plus writing, too Faulkner for me. But you do go on, seems to work out beautifully.

    Lovely photos. So difficult to photograph glass, and you do it well, so translucently.

    • S.

    Whilst cognac learning is always good, and the photos you post are beautiful (though I’m still chuckling at the racy prison graffiti of yore) – what I’m really most curious about is the wee square green-topped cake – what is it, please?

    • David

    LB: Yes, a lot of folks get worried that their tastes are too “downscale”; people confess to me, apologizing, that they like Nestlés Crunch bars. And I’m, like, “So do I!” It’s really not about how much you spend, it’s what you like.

    When I was in Cognac, I went to the Cognathèque and saw bottles that costs upwards of €6000 (about $8800). I’m sure they are extraordinary, but I’m pretty confident that people can find a bottle for a little…or a lot less, that they’ll enjoy almost as much.

    Thea: I hit a few thrift stores in San Francisco during a recipe trip, mostly scouring for Tupperware, and didn’t see any Cognac flutes. I think they’re a bit of a specialty item, but as you can see, for some of the tastings, we used ordinary wine glasses, which the Cognac makers themselves chose. But I will keep looking…

    S: Don’t recall what the green cake was (perhaps because I finished that glass before I dug into dessert), but I would imagine it was a pistachio bavarian-style (mousse) cake.

    Janice: So glad you liked the book and that Sheila from the bookshop recommended it to you. Keep up that French…and good luck with all those verbs! ; )

    • Jackie et Claude

    David, tes photos sont magnifiques et ton etude sur le Cognac tres interessante !
    Dans la plupart des familles francaises, nous avons des verres-ballon speciaux pour le cognac, meme si nous n’en buvons que tres rarement ! mais, a ta prochaine visite, nous t’en offrirons.. promis !!!

    • Karin

    Oh pooh. I started a comment here and got so distracted with other links and recipes, I forgot to complete it! Rats. Then I accidentally refreshed the page, lol.

    I sat down to read this in the morning here in P-Town (*snort* I can imagine its hating me call it that), and was really captivated by this post. As others have commented, this is such a gorgeous post; from the photos to the writing to the humor it is very well-done, David, as always. :)

    The sentence that jumped out to me the most, and the one I remember I was waxing prosaic on before I got so distracted was this: “3-4% evaporation a year, called “The angels share”” That has got to be one of the loveliest concepts ever, and the idea of slightly tipsy angels with halos askew has stuck with me all morning!

    Oh and I remember what also got me going. That tray up there with special places for the Cognac, café expresso, and those desserts? OMG, totally foodgasmic. That tray makes me want to weep! I bet that’s the stuff angels eat when they are getting their angels share of cognac!

    Thank you for this beautiful and informative post.

    • Karin

    “I thought the mold was going to give some folks pause.”BTW, about this: yes it did. It grossed me out quite a lot, actually, since I have pretty intense mold allergies! I about started sneezing and wheezing just looking at the photo, my stomach churning. Ugh!! Those mold pics freak me out, lol. *going back to rest of post to contemplate angels, dessert, and cognac some more*

    • Alta

    Wow, and I was just thinking the other day, as I sipped a glass of cognac (nothing super-fancy, just a Hennessy – I’m on a cognac kick as of late), gee, I wonder what goes into making cognac? And now I know. I am not sure I could hang through tastings like that, all day – I don’t have a good level of alcohol tolerance, but I think I’d definitely try! Lovely photos and thanks for letting us know about the glasses – I need to find some!

    • Michele

    Excellent article. Having just developed a taste for cognacs (VSOP in particular), it was timely to get an education in the development and differences in the making and tastes of the various products. I must add however, that it would take quite a few “tastings” before you’d ever get me into that arachnid filled, fungus covered enclave. Kudo’s to you!

    • Susan

    Question? I noticed that all the bottles, even the web covered ones in the cellar, are standing straight up. Did they say why cognac doesn’t need to lay on it’s side? Doesn’t the cork dry out over time?

    • barknot

    Very informative. I always wondered what the difference was between cognac and armagnac. Would you tell us about marc? Merci, David.

    • Andrika

    Thanks for being so charming and informative David. I second the request of barknot. What is the difference between marc (and grappa and eaux de vie for that matter)?

    • Marina

    Hmmm I love Cognac!! Really interesting post!
    David, I never read anything about your work in the restaurant, long hours, how you managed the kitchean and created recipes… I would love to read about that!
    Great blog! Thanks for the post!

    • Vanessa

    My father has always been a big Cognac after dinner drinker and I never understood his love of the fiery liquid I tried a few times. Your post has given me the desire to give it another try. I love your reassurance that you are not a rube for using ice cubes or liking two buck chuck as well as Aunt Bunny’s quote! I had the pleasure of meeting you at BlogHer and you were kind enough to autograph my copy of the Sweet Life in Paris. I just reviewed it on my blog. I can’t wait for your next book and will be reading this blog religiously until then.

    • Craig

    I found this to be very interesting followed up with the pictures I can almost taste it. The problem with me I have the rich man’s taste but the poor man’s budget. I found to price my tastes in my budget is to buy aged brandies. For me an XO brandy will normally taste better than VSOP cognac. In reality cognacs are normally superior, my value buy is Maison Prunier Cognac 20 Years Old, $90 750ml.

    • Gayle

    David, it was such fun hearing you speak at BlogHer Food 09 – belated thanks for that.

    And an additional thank-you for the info in one of your past posts on Art-Home. I’d been trying to reserve ever since minuit Paris time, thinking they’d start taking reservations at the crack-o-day. Silly me. That’s what would happen in the U.S. The French are a tad more civilized (or irrational – take your pick).

    • LB

    Some of the best cognac glasses I have found came with a bottle of Henessy XO some years back. Little stemless ‘short tulip’ glasses, absolutely fantastic. They seem to bring out the best in Alsacian riesling too.

    • azelia

    David, I’m not one for posting on people’s blogs but just had to say….it pleases me no end to read you’re demystifying the world of spirits & wine and telling people to drink what they like and not to be embarrassed by their taste buds. Your tasting cognac course reminds me of a wine tasting course I took 17yrs ago where we went through different grapes, oak & non-oak, why certain regional wines went with their counterpart produce and gave me the confidence to discover what my taste buds liked or disliked such as oaky Australian chardonnay yuk! The important lesson I learned was how to taste the wine, and this in turn gave me the confidence to order wine in top restaurants and I think more importantly to ask the sommelier if I don’t know a wine.

    My head starts to hurt when people start to talk endlessly about wine growers, terroir, first wines…a bit like when OH starts to talk about which pipes are the best for his motorbike….!

    My first love is food but hey a nice glass of wine can sure round off the meal :-)

    • David

    barknot & Andrika: Eaux-de-vies are clear liquids, distillations of the grapes (although it can be any fruit, and sometimes vegetables, herbs, or other things.) Cognac, and other liquors like armagnac, is made by aging the eaux-de-vie in wood, which gives it that characteristic amber color and flavor.

    Here’s a pretty good article about grappa, which offers an explanation about marc-based distillations as well. Marc and grappa are made from leftover grape skins, after the juice is pressed out for wine-making. And I also wrote about kirsch a few months back, which is a clear eau-de-vie made from cherries.

    Gayle: You have to be online at 10am (Paris-time) to get a reservation at Art Home. Lunch reservations are much easier to come by than dinner ones. Good luck!

    azelia, craig & vanessa: Since taste is so subjective, it’s always interesting to see and hear other people’s opinion. For example, I drink wines that cost €2-€6, but I don’t like that 2-buck stuff. Trader Joe’s used to have a “French market merlot” for a dollar more than was much better. But that’s just me.

    I think it’s good just to taste as much as you can to determine what you like. From chocolate to olive oil, and not necessarily listen to the experts. Because what they like, you might not.

    Speaking of wine sold in bulk, DeLoach Vineyards introduced a program to put mini-casks in restaurants, obliterating the need for bottles, and extra storage and trash (or recycling). It’s a pretty great idea and hopefully decreases the cost of wine to both consumers and restaurants, as well as reduces the amounts of glass, corks, and boxes that wine traditionally is schlepped around in.

    • ToKissTheCook

    This has to be one of my favorite posts from a visual perspective. The fact that we’re prepping for Haloween may have something to do with that but I’d have loved it just the same in April. The rich color of the different cognacs, the juxtaposition of creepy cellar to elegant tasting room? Delicious, all of it.

    • Mike Smith

    Next time you’re visiting the US, check out Germain-Robin from Ukiah. Amazing stuff – you’ll enjoy it.

    • Kay

    love the photos here, david. as an avid scotch and cognac drinker, i’ve been looking for such photos to frame and put up. is there a way to buy?

    • David

    Mike: They are quite good, I’ve tried them. Thanks for reminding me and giving Germain-Robin a shout-out.

    Kay: Because sometimes, like in this post, I have a lot of photos, they’re not formatted for downloading I’m afraid. They’re mostly for people to enjoy on the site.

    • Dawn in CA

    P.S. – by the by, I am surprised no one has commented about your NEXT BOOK! You snuck that into this post so discreetly, or perhaps everyone was distracted by the photos? You are a busy boy these days. Looking forward to the new book… soon!


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