How to Buy a Good Brandy


Brandy is simply a wine that has been distilled to the point at which its alcohol level has reached 40 to 60 percent of its total volume. Originally known as brandy wine, brandy has become one of the most beloved of all after-dinner spirits. By choosing the right brandy, you can easily make any social occasion more memorable.

  • Buy a good brandy by learning more about the different types and by tasting each one to determine whether it's pleasing to your palate. Types of brandy include cognac (aged brandy that is double-distilled near the French town of Cognac), Armagnac (which is single-distilled in the Southwest of France), Brandy de Jerez (which is very similar to sherry) and grape brandy (which may be produced elsewhere in the world where grapes are grown).

  • Learn more about fruit brandies, which may be distilled using fruit other than grapes, such as plums, apples, apricots, blackberries, raspberries and many others. Some fruit brandies may produce liquor that is even higher in its alcohol content than its more conventional grape-sourced counterparts.

  • Educate yourself about the finer grades of brandy, which designate the extent to which the liquor has been aged. Brandy grades include A.C. (aged in wooden casks for at least 2 years), VS (very special and aged for at least 3 years), VSOP (very special old pale, which has been aged for at least 5 years), XO (extra old, which has been aged for at least 6 years) and vintage, which has been aged for a longer period of time, as specified on the label.

  • Choose a pomace brandy, also known as grappa or marc, which has been distilled from grape pulp, seeds and stems. While pomace brandy may be considered an acquired taste, it usually presents a fruitier experience, since it is unaged. It may provide a good alternative to more traditional brandies.

  • Pick cognac if you are trying to buy the finest type of brandy available. Cognac has long been considered the pinnacle of brandy distilling, and by choosing a VSOP or XO grade of cognac, you may experience the finest expression of a distilled grape. Armagnac brandy is another excellent choice when you're looking to buy a good brandy.

Tips & Warnings

  • Learn the difference between cognac and brandy. Cognac differs from brandy in that it specifically uses grapes from the Cognac area of France and has been aged in casks for a specified amount of time. Brandy, on the other hand, generally uses caramel coloring to approximate the effects of aging. However, some finer varieties may be aged in the same way as cognac.
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