It can be difficult for an untrained person to correctly determine the age of cognac – the time of its aging in oak barrels. The “stars” familiar to us are found only on ordinary cognacs (grape brandies) produced in the former USSR. Real French cognacs have a different classification based on symbolic meanings. We will consider both labeling options so that you don’t have any problems with a drink from any manufacturer.

Exposure of cognac is considered until the moment it is bottled, after which the drink stops “aging”. The time it is in the bottle is not critical, since the quality does not change.

French classification

The standards are set and controlled by the National Interprofessional Bureau of Cognacs. Age is determined by the aging of the youngest alcohol contained in the drink. For example, if alcohols of 3, 5 and 6 years are mixed, then the aging of the resulting cognac is 3 years.

Consumers learn about the aging of the drink thanks to special markings on the label:

  • VS (Very Special), Trois Etoiles, de Luxe, Selection – at least 2 years;
  • Superior – at least 3 years of aging;
  • VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Vieux, Reserve or VO (Very Old) – at least 4 years old;
  • VVSOP (Very Very Superior Old Pale) and Grande Reserve – at least 5 years old;
  • XO (Extra Old), Vieille Reserve, Tres Vieux, Extra, Royal or Napoleon – at least 6 years old.

French legislation prohibits labeling cognacs older than six and a half years, since it is almost impossible to control their blend and quality.

Domestic labeling of cognacs

The classification used by producers from the former Soviet Union (mainly Armenian brandy houses) is much simpler. It distinguishes ordinary, vintage and collection cognacs.

Ordinary cognacs are marked with asterisks. Each such asterisk indicates the year of aging in oak barrels. For example, if you see 5 stars on a bottle, then this is a five-year-old brandy. It should be noted that there are no domestic cognacs aged less than 3 years (theoretically), GOST prohibits the use of such young cognac spirits.

Categories of cognac

There are letter designations on vintage cognacs, they are as follows:

  • KV (Aged Cognac) – at least 6 years of aging;
  • KVVK (Aged Cognac of the Highest Quality) – at least 8 years;
  • KS (Old Cognac) – at least 10 years;
  • OS (Very Old) – the drink is at least 12 years old.

Cognacs that have been aged for more than 23 years are considered collectible. These are very expensive drinks bought by wealthy connoisseurs for private collections.