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Cognac in a typical brandy snifter

Brandy is a generic term for spirits made from a wine distillate . As a trade name, the term "brandy" is defined under EU law and is particularly differentiated from brandy and other spirits.


Wine distillates are among the oldest spirits in the world. Presumably n. Chr already for 1000. In what is now Turkey high-proof alcoholic drinks wine burned . Wine distillates spread in Europe in the High Middle Ages and were initially used primarily for medicinal purposes. About the Middle Low German brandewīn the English term originated brandy wine . This name, shortened to “Brandy”, is used in many European countries such as England, Italy and Spain, in German, for example, often in cocktail recipes . The relevant EU regulation now equates brandy and brandy.

Concept history

Until the early 20th century, brandy was generally referred to in German as "Cognac", regardless of whether it came from the Cognac region or not. The term “brandy” (cf. early New High German brantewin and similar word formations) has only been around since the turn of the 20th century.

In 1900, the Association of Independent Public Chemists dealt with the investigation and assessment of cognac, including the question of whether only pure wine distillates should be designated as cognac, which did not contain industrial or agricultural alcohol from other sources. The consultations took place with the participation of several representatives from the cognac industry. At the 6th Annual General Meeting of the Association in Gera in 1901, a catalog of criteria was adopted, which states, among other things:

Cognac, which is marketed under a name that must give the impression that it is pure wine distillate, may only owe its alcohol content to the distillate from wine or pomace wine. The congregation declares that they consider the name "cognac brandy" to be an appropriate name for such cognac.

In the following years the word began to be used in product labeling. In 1907 the company Asbach & Co. registered a label for Asbach "old" as a word / figurative mark, on which the claim was to be read:

Asbach "old" is a real old brandy cognac made from fine, select wines.

With the Wine Act of 1909 it was established in § 18 that the designation "cognac" was only permitted for drinking brandy whose alcohol was obtained exclusively from wine. The term "brandy" was not mentioned in the law; its qualifying function had become obsolete due to the stricter regulation. Nonetheless, it continued to be used.

After the German defeat in World War I, France forced the German Empire to respect the protection in France for certain indications of origin (the so-called champagne paragraph of the Versailles Treaty ); this included the designation “Cognac” as an indication of the origin of the Cognac region. Since it was no longer available as a name for pure wine distillates, the Reichstag amended the Wine Law in 1923 and introduced the designation "brandy" for this purpose:

§ 18. Drinking brandy, the alcohol of which is obtained exclusively from wine and which is produced in the manner of cognac, may be referred to as brandy in commercial transactions. [...]

"Brandy" was the legally defined designation and became widely known.


Brandy is a protected term across the EU for a spirit whose alcohol content comes entirely from wine. The alcohol content of the original wine distillate is 52 to 86 % alcohol by volume. The minimum alcohol content must be 36% vol.

According to the definitions of spirits, brandy and brandy are spirits,

  • which is obtained from brandy with or without the addition of wine distillate that is less than 94.8 percent by volume distilled, provided this distillate does not exceed 50 percent of the alcohol content of the finished product,
  • a volatile content of at least 125 grams / 100 liters of pure alcohol and
  • has a methanol content of no more than 200 grams / 100 liters of pure alcohol,
  • which have matured in oak barrels (at least six months if the capacity of the barrels is less than 1000 liters, at least twelve months if larger barrels are used),
  • which generally have a minimum alcohol content of 36% vol. (for German brandy: 38% vol.)
  • to which no further ethanol of agricultural origin was added in any form .

Flavor additives are prohibited unless they are permitted in the respective countries of manufacture using traditional methods. In some cases, extracts from vanilla pods can be added to round off the taste. The addition of up to 3% vol. Sugar and caramel is also allowed . The color is therefore not a quality feature.

Does not fall under the EU legal term of 'brandy' or 'brandy'

  • white brandy that is not stored in wooden barrels and therefore does not take on any color,
  • Fruit brandies (not identical to fruit brandies ) must bear the name of the fruit used and are classed as liqueurs , for example cherry brandy .

The term brandy should not be confused with the term brandy. In the German-speaking world, spirits have been the (especially tax law) umbrella term for all spirits and mixtures of spirits with a defined alcohol content since the 19th century at the latest . Therefore, spirits under tax law are often not a distillate made from wine, but made from one Variety of starting products containing sugar and starch. These include fruit, cereals or potatoes (see also: agricultural alcohol ). On the other hand, the more recent EU law defines brandy as a wine distillate again.

In the production of Portuguese port wine , the fermented grape must is mixed with brandy before storage. Even with Spanish sherry , the alcohol content is increased by means of brandy before it is bottled in barrels in order to allow longer storage times.

Distinction between brandy and brandy

Brandy, as opposed to brandy, is a generic term for all spirits made by distillation, while brandy only refers to distillates made from wine.

Producing countries and products


A brandy German origin is in since 1892 Rudesheim am Rhein produced Asbach . Another brandy from Germany is “Chantré” from Eltville am Rhein . Named after the maiden name of the wife of the family entrepreneur Ludwig Eckes , which has been sold since 1953, with around 13 million bottles (2007) it ranks second among the best-selling spirits in Germany (source: IRI, retail panel). The brand belongs to the Rotkäppchen-Mumm sparkling wine cellars .

If brandy bears the designation "Deutscher Weinbrand", a minimum alcohol content of 38% vol. Is required. In addition, "Deutscher Weinbrand" must have an official inspection number on the label. Since “Asbach Uralt” and “Chantré” only have an alcohol content of 36% and do not have an official test number, neither of them is “German brandy”. The situation is different with the Zinn 40 brand from Eckes .

Wilthener Goldkrone from Wilthen in Upper Lusatia in Saxony is on the one hand not a brandy because of its 28% vol., On the other hand because it is a brandy blend consisting of brandy distillate and an addition of agricultural alcohol . On the label, it is declared as a 'spirit specialty' that was already distilled in the GDR , including the Meeraner ancestor . The “Wilthener Goldkrone” brand, which today belongs to Hardenberg-Wilthen AG, comes from a company with a brandy tradition since the middle of the 19th century. Hardenberg-Wilthen also offers brandies in VSOP and XO quality ("WILTHENER No. 1").


Due to the eventful Franco-German conceptual history of cognac and "brandy", the German designation of many spirits made from French wine distillates as "brandy" differs from current EU law. Spirits that are geographically protected as eau-de-vie de vin, such as eau-de-vie de vin de cognac, are protected as “brandy”.

Brandies made from wines from the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments can be called cognac . The burning process takes place in onion-shaped stills. The minimum storage is 30 months in wooden barrels made of oak from the forests of the Limousin . Cognac must have an alcohol content of at least 40 percent by volume.

Brandies from the Gascony region are called Armagnac . In contrast to cognac, this is not produced in a double distillation process ( Charentaise distillation ), but in a single distillation process. In the so-called "Méthode Armagnac" , raw and fine brandy are combined in a single distillation process. Armagnac is also a protected geographical designation of origin for French brandies.


Bottle of Conde de Osborne , created by Salvador Dalí

Spain is the country with probably the longest brandy tradition in Europe and the largest brandy producer in the world. 90% of Spanish brandies come from the region around Jerez de la Frontera on the Atlantic coast. This product has been protected under the name Brandy de Jerez since 1987 and its production is monitored by a control body - the Consejo Regulador - according to strict criteria. It is the only brandy in the world with an EU-approved designation of origin. A special distillation process is used for Spanish brandies , using two completely different distillates ( holandas and destilados ). The holandas consist of 60 to 65 percent alcohol and can be described as the actual carrier of the brandy aroma. The Destilados have an alcohol content of 84 to 86 percent, are aromatic rather neutral and, in combination with the actual aromatic carriers, ensure a lighter and finer taste. The process of storage and aging ( Solera process ), which is not used in the production of cognac or brandy, is of particular importance with Spanish brandy . The brandy is mostly stored in barrels made of American white holm oak , which were usually used for sherry storage beforehand. Vintage storage is unknown to the Solera process. Rather, the respective distillates have to "wander through" a certain number of rows of casks in the course of their maturation period. After the first year, only part of the young distillate is removed and poured into a barrel in the second row, from which part has in turn been pumped into a barrel in the third row. The barrels in the first row are filled with fresh, completely unaged distillate. Only the distillate from the last row is used to make the final brandy. Depending on the product, the number of solera levels can vary. For example, a 12-level solera process is known from the high-quality “Gran Duque d'Alba Oro” brandy from the “Williams & Humbert” bodega . The result of this complex system is that consistent quality is guaranteed over very long periods of time. The Solera process comes to an end with the mixture of the holandas and destilados and the renewed storage, sometimes for several months (or years). The drinking strength alcohol content (with Brandy de Jerez an alcohol content of 36 to 45 percent by volume is usual) is achieved by adding water.

Spanish brandy has three different quality levels:

Before a brandy can be called a solera , it has to be stored in barrels for at least six months, as a rule it even matures for 18 months. It is still light in color, light and has a fresh wine taste.
Solera Reserva
This brandy is aged in a barrel for twelve months. It also usually matures much longer (up to five years). The average age of this fine brandy is 3 years. It is darker and more aromatic than the Brandy Solera .
Solera Gran Reserva
For this highest quality class, 36 months of storage time in barrels are required, but this minimum requirement is often exceeded many times over. In such brandies there are nuances of coffee, chocolate, caramel with subtle notes of vanilla, sometimes also of raisins or plums. On average, brandies of the Solera Gran Reserva quality are now aged for at least eight to 15 years, many of them 25 years and more. Lately very old brandies with an age of 50, 60 and sometimes even 70 and 100 years have come onto the market.


Brandy has been made in Italy for centuries; the Vecchia Romagna is very well known . It has been distilled in Bologna since 1820 , based on white wines from Emilia-Romagna , made from the Trebbiano grape. This is known in France under the name Ugni Blanc or Saint-Émilion and forms the basis of the cognac there. Two qualities of Vecchia Romagna are currently available in Germany: the Etichetta Nera - it has been aged in Limousin oak barrels for at least three years and has an alcohol content of 38 percent by volume - and the Vecchia Romagna Riserva, which has been aged for at least ten years in Limousin oak barrels and contains 40 percent alcohol by volume . In the past, you still got the Vecchia Romagna Rara in Germany with at least 15 years of storage and 40 percent alcohol by volume.


In Portugal , too , the production of brandy has a long tradition, one of the most famous is probably the macieira . This has been produced since 1885, based on wines from the Arinto , Periquita , Trincadeira and Fernão Pires grapes. It only has an alcohol level of 36% and stores min. 6 months in oak barrels before being bottled.


The Armenian Brandy, usually called Armenian Brandy , is a pure wine distillate. The legally protected term Armenian brandy describes high-quality brandy from Armenia, the base wine of which may only come from domestic production. Outside the EU , the term “Armianskij Konjak” is also used.


David Sarajishvili and Eniseli, distillate cellar

In Georgia, Dawit Sarajishvili began producing brandy in 1884. The production steps are comparable to the Charentais methods. The main export market is Russia, where Georgian brandy can be sold as "Cognac". However, the label must be written in Cyrillic .

Moldova and Transnistria

The Republic of Moldova and its de facto independent part of Transnistria are also producing regions of brandy. Probably the best-known producer in the region is the company Kvint , whose products are also sold internationally. The brandies produced in Moldova and Transnistria are usually referred to locally as "Cognac", but mostly as "Brandy" when exported.

Chile and Peru

There is a long tradition of making brandy in Chile and Peru. These are sold there under the name Pisco . The alcohol level of a Peruvian pisco must be between 38% vol. and 48% vol. lie.


The Norwegian brandy usually consists of distilled wine with the addition of local alcohol, which is mostly made from potatoes. According to EU law, it is neither a brandy nor a brandy or brandy due to the addition of agricultural alcohol.

United States

In the United States, brandy refers to domestic and foreign alcoholic beverages made from pure wine alcohol, both cognac and brandy .


In Hungary, a product made from grape distillate (with the addition of flavorings) is called “brandy”.

Former Yugoslavia

In Serbo-Croatian the brandy is called "Vinjak". The first domestic Vinjak was produced by Dragoljub Marković from Aleksandrovac in Serbia in 1933; Marković learned how to make brandy in Paris. Originally the Vinjak was marketed under the name Cognac , but had to be renamed to the current name due to the trademark rights, which then developed into the general name for brandy.


Web links

Commons : Brandy  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Brandy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 15, 2008 , Annex II.
  2. ^ J. Westermeyer: Cross-cultural studies on alcoholism. In: HW Goedde: Alcoholism: Biomedical and genetic aspects. Pergamon Press, New York, pp. 305-311.
  3. ^ Gundolf Keil : The German brandy tract of the Middle Ages: texts and source research. In: Centaurus 7, 1960/61, pp. 53-100.
  4. ^ Etymological dictionary of German. 8th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, 2005, ISBN 3-423-32511-9 .
  5. Herbert Schöppler: A praise of the brandy from the 16th century. In: Communications on the history of medicine and the natural sciences. Volume 13, 1914, p. 443 f.
  6. ^ Journal of Public Chemistry. 7, 1901, p. 393.
  7. Werner Betz: Brandy. In: Journal for German Word Research. 18, 1962, p. 186.
    Information on the Asbach brand 
    “old” in the register of the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) - in the retrievable reproduction of the brand, however, the word “Cognac” has been removed.
  8. Wine Law of April 7, 1909 (RGBl. P. 393)
  9. in the version of the announcement of February 1, 1923 (RGBl. I, p. 107)
  10. Minimum alcohol content of spirits ( Memento of October 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) - The Federal Authority of the Swiss Confederation
  11. Website of the customs administration on the tax item spirits ( Memento from January 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  12. ^ Website of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Agriculture
  13. Consumers / Spirits: Sharp wave . In: Der Spiegel . No. 6 , 1967 ( online - October 19, 2017 ).