What Factors Affect the Price of Cognac?

Renee Booker

Cognac, a specific variety of brandy, derives its name from the town of Cognac, France, which, along with the surrounding area, is the only location that produces the Ugni Blanc grapes necessary for production of the liquor. The price of cognac depends on a variety of factors which are legally determined by the use of grades, ranging from Very Special(VS) to Extra Old (XO), with other grades such as Hors d'âge used to indicate age beyond the grade scale. Other factors that affect the price of cognac include the type of grapes used, age, and blend of the liquor.

A bottle of cognac.
A bottle of cognac.

A beginning step in determining the price of cognac involves the first step of production — the eaux-de-vie. Eaux-de-vie, French for “waters of life,” are white grape wines that serve as the basis of the cognac. In order for the cognac to be considered crus, a name used to descibe cognac made from the best wines, at least 90% of the grapes used to create the eaux-de-vie must be Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Colombard, with the remaining 10% consisting of any number of different grape blends.

Super premium, artfully packaged cognacs can cost anywhere from 40 to 250 times as much as a low-end cognac.
Super premium, artfully packaged cognacs can cost anywhere from 40 to 250 times as much as a low-end cognac.

The next step in determining the price of cognac is to identify the blend of eaux-de-vie used to create the liquor. The vast majority of cognac producers use a blend of eaux-de-vie to create a well-rounded flavor, as well as to successfully replicate the same flavor again and again. Since the flavor of a batch of eau-de-vie is specific unto itself, the mâitre de chai, or master taster, of each vineyard is responsible for mixing different eaux-de-vie to achieve a consistent result. Many smaller vineyards that produce their own cognac prefer to use a single mix of eaux-de-vie, allowing for more variance in taste from batch to batch much like a single malt scotch or whiskey.

The final, and arguably the most important element in determining the price of cognac is the grade. The grade of a cognac is determined primarily by the age of the youngest eaux-de-vie included in the blend. Cognac grades consist of three major classifications and five sub-classifications used to further identify the blend. The three major classifications, in order of price point, are as follows: Very Special, Very Special Old Pale, and Extra Old. The eaux-de-vie in each are aged by law for a minimum of two, four, and six years respectively; however, it is not uncommon to see ages up to twenty years in these grades. Of the five sub-classifications, the most notable is the Hors d'âge, which by law is equivalent to Extra Old, but is used by many producers to signify a cognac of age beyond the official age scale.

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Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- The price of cognac is not always worth the value. It really depends on what one prefers.

Cognac has a very specific development process and it's distilled twice. For this reason, it is usually not aged much. Some other types of brandy, that are aged much longer can taste better and cost less than cognac even though they are only once distilled. Armagnac is one of them.


@fBoyle-- That's a tough question because there are many types of brandy and several types of cognac. And each have different grades based on age as the article said.

For the most part, cognac costs more than other types of brandy, with the youngest cognac costing the least and the most aged cognac costing the most. But a young cognac will cost less than an aged brandy.

The reason that cognac costs more than other types of brandy is because it can only be made in one region in France. The French government actually regulates this. Since there isn't really competition in cognac, the price tends to run high. But cognac is a good quality brandy, so I think that the price is worth the value.


How do cognac prices compare to price of other types of brandy?

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