Spirits: Brandy

Brandy from around the world

It was the Phoenicians and the Roman who took it upon themselves too spread the art of winemaking throughout the whole of Southern Europe. Later the Italians monks and Moorish scholars introduced the remarkable process of distillation, and a new spirit was born, its name was brandy. It is a broad term encompassing a large family of fruit distilled spirits that includes many different styles. The word brandy derives from the Dutch brandewijn which means ‘burned wine’. The spirit has been around for 900 years, and first discovered in the middle of the 13th century in France as an attempt to produce a medicinal drink. The word brandy when alone on a label implies a grape product. Brandy is obtained from the distillation of wine and aged before bottling. Today, brandy is made around the world wherever grapes are grown. A wide range of styles and flavours can be found between countries. Other grape brandies from around the world include: Pisco from Chile and Peru, Lourinhã from Portugal. A fine brandy must satisfy three conditions:

  1. The wine to be distilled should be young white wine, low in alcohol content and quite acidic.
  2. It must be pot-distilled.
  3. It must be aged a minimum of two years. The number of years the bandy is left to age and the kind of wood in which the aging takes place will influence the quality of the final product.

The young spirit is commonly used in mixed drinks such as ‘Brandy Alexander’ and ‘Sidecar’.  The older (aged) spirit  is enjoyed as a digestif. It is usually served neat, at room temperature in a brandy snifter.