Five Facts About Cognac

1. Cognac is the Champagne of brandy

Cognac is a type of brandy, or distilled wine, made in a delineated region of about 200,000 acres surrounding the town of Cognac, on France’s western coast. All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. Like how all rhombuses are squares, but not all squares are rhombuses. Or how all grilled cheeses are sandwiches, but not all sandwiches are grilled cheeses. We can keep going but we’ll stop because you probably got it the first time. 

2. There are six distinct Cognac-making regions

Within this “delimited area,” as it’s called by French Cognac authorities, are six zones of production defined by their terroir. From highest-quality (chalky, limestone-rich soil that retains the most moisture and reflects the most sunlight to the grapes) to lowest (soil that is mostly clay or sand), they are: Grande Champagne, Petit Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires. Virtually all Cognacs are blended from several eaux-de-vie (distilled spirits of varying ages) from these six regions for the most well-rounded flavor.

3. There are some really strict laws about Cognac

Here are a few: Cognac must be made from one or a combination of just three types of grapes (Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard). It must be aged for at least two years. It must be double-distilled in copper pot stills of a particular shape and configuration (Chartenais, after the French district where the process originated). Its grapes must be harvested only in October, and it must be distilled only from November 1st to March 31st. And distillers have to sing La Marseillaise at no louder than a whisper to each individual barrel three times a day (okay we made that up but seriously it would be believable considering everything else).

4. That whole “VS” and “VSOP” thing is actually pretty simple

There are three main classifications for Cognac: VS, or Very Special, has been aged at least two years (Cognacs marked with three stars are also VS); VSOP, or Very Superior Old Pale, has been aged at least four years; XO, or Extra Old, has been aged at least six years (though as of next April, Cognac will need 10 years of aging to qualify as XO).

5. People used to drink Cognac from those big honking glasses to keep it warm

Back when smallpox was a daily topic of conversation at ye olde tavern, The Queen’s No-Central-Heating, it was just cold all the time. Those big bulb glasses are designed to channel heat from the necessarily meaty grip of your hands to the drink, which is best enjoyed at about 70 degrees.

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 4

Arsenal got their pursuit of a place in the Premier League’s top four back on track as they ended a run of three defeats with a crucial victory at Chelsea. The Gunners’ hopes of securing a place in next season’s Champions League had been significantly damaged by those losses but this win will provide renewed belief. Eddie Nketiah was selected ahead of out-of-sorts Alexandre Lacazette in Arsenal’s attack and he rewarded manager Mikel Arteta’s faith when he took advantage of Andreas Christensen’s weak back pass with a composed finish.

It was the start of a chaotic first half as Timo Werner equalised with a deflected shot four minutes later before Emile Smith Rowe showed a touch of class to beat Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy with a cool finish from the edge of the area. Chelsea were back on terms again before the break through captain Cesar Azpilicueta but Nketiah pounced on a series of defensive errors in the Blues’ box to put Arsenal back in front just before the hour mark. Bukayo Saka was outstanding for Arsenal and he got the reward his performance deserved when he sealed the win from the spot in added time after he was hauled down by Azpilicueta.

The Gunners are now level on points with north London rivals Tottenham with a derby at Emirates Stadium still to come. Questions about Arsenal’s character and ability to maintain a fight for a top-four finish were starting to be asked after three defeats in a row but this was a display that showed plenty of grit. Arsenal were on the front foot right from the start, pressing Chelsea into mistakes and refusing to buckle even when Thomas Tuchel’s side equalised twice. Nketiah was the headline-grabber with two goals but Saka and Smith Rowe showed Arsenal have two real gems for the future.

Saka gave Marcos Alonso a tough time on Arsenal’s right flank, helping to create Smith Rowe’s goal, setting up other chances then scoring the fourth with a clinical penalty after he was fouled. Smith Rowe demonstrated great composure to finish sweetly for his 11th goal of the season, a fine tally for this richly promising 21-year-old playmaker. Arsenal now face struggling Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime feeling much better about themselves after a deserved triumph.