Brandy – the Grape Spirit
Traditionally viewed as a spirit your Mum or Grandma would drink, Brandy has taken on a new lease of life recently as younger drinkers have discovered the pleasure of this diverse and elegant spirit.
Typically enjoyed as an after dinner drink, Brandy now enjoys an elevated status as a particularly versatile spirit used as an ingredient in cooking and in trendy cocktails such as the “Alexander”, the “Stinger”, and the “Sidecar”.
The origins of Brandy can be traced back to the Moslem Mediterranean states. During the seventh and eighth Centuries, alchemists experimented with distilling grapes to create medicinal spirits. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that Brandy became well known worldwide when traders introduced it to Northern Europe from Spain and the South of France.
Brandy was in fact discovered by mistake when a Dutch trader discovered that removing water from wine through distillation allowed for more wine to be loaded into the cargo hold. The intention was for the water to then be added back to the wine concentrate once it arrived at the destination. However, the resulting spirit was so delicious, that many never bothered to add the water.
This spirit became known as Brandy, originating from the Dutch word, brandewijn (meaning burnt wine) or wine distilled from fruits such as grape, apple, blackberry and apricot.
Whilst brandy can be made anywhere grapes are grown there is no significant local production. The reason is that New Zealand grape varieties are too valuable to divert into brandy production.
Perhaps the best-known brandy to New Zealanders is that originating from France.
Other countries renown for their brandies, and available in New Zealand, include those produced in Australia, Greece, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.
Best served at room temperature, Brandy should ideally be served in a snifter glass. A tulip shaped glass, the narrow mouth of the snifter glass allows for the alcoholic aromas to concentrate at the top of the glass. A common misconception is to warm the glass with a candle to bring out to bouquet in the Brandy but this changes the alcohol, a hand on the glass should be enough to warm the spirit.
Brandy is also a very good mixer with cola, ginger ale, lemonade, soda and orange juice.
Brandy Age and Quality Indications
Brandy is generally aged in wooden barrels (usually oak) for a minimum of one to two years and must contain a minimum of 37% alcohol by volume.
|Age Indication on Label||Translation||Minimum age of youngest spirit|
|V S||Very Superior||3 years in wood|
|V S O P||Very Superior Old Pale||5 years in wood|
|X O||Extra Old||6 years|