Brandy and Marc
Marc is made in the same way as grappa – distilled from pomace (a by-product of the winemaking process, consisting of grape stalks, skins and seeds), with the best examples coming from Burgundy (Marc de Bourgogne), made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay pomace.
What is brandy?
Brandy is a distilled spirit made in numerous countries all over the world from a variety of ingredients. Grape brandy (made with grapes!) is usually made in regions and countries with a history of wine production. By the way, cherry brandy is not a brandy at all, but is actually a fruit liqueur, made by macerating fruit in neutral alcohol, then adding sugar, just like other liqueurs. Marc is usually darker and more mellow than grappa, however, due to prolonged ageing in oak barrels, which also adds bags of complexity.
Brandy works a treat in cocktails, and is the main ingredient in iconic cocktails such as the Alexander, Sidecar and Blazer. In terms of serving brandy, some prefer the outsized balloon glass, which ensures the brandy aromatics leap out of the glass; others prefer the sleeker, more delicate tulip glass, which some say delivers the perfect balance of aromas.
The Sazerac - a classic brandy cocktail.
Is Brandy the same as Cognac?
The famous saying in the Cognac industry is that all Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac is a protected name and region, similar to Champagne and sherry, and should not be regarded as generic ‘brandy’, which is not tied to a specific country or area. Despite this, many brandies around the world will be made in a similar way, although some will use malt or grains, rather than grapes as they do in Cognac.
Napoleon and Brandy
The French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte has long been associated with both Cognac and brandy, with many distillers using his name (and his famous hat) to boost the image of their spirits. The brand he is most associated with is Courvoisier Cognac – Napoleon visited the Courvoisier warehouses in 1811 and promptly decreed that his troops should be given regular rations of Cognac. From an ageing perspective, ‘Napoleon’ on a Cognac label means that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend will be at least six years old. However, there are no such rules for non-Cognac brandies, where the term is used liberally but gives no indication of age.
Typical Character and Style of Brandy