Wine made from grapes has been a popular drink around the world for thousands of years. To prevent the wine, and thereby the alcohol, from going bad, cultures have distilled wine into liquors for just about as many years. Today, many famous liquors are distillates of wine. This article shows an overview of them and gives you a few ideas to distill wine at home yourself.
International distilled wine spirits
Armagnac is a French brandy with a golden color and a strong and dry taste. The designation as “Armagnac” is theoretically limited to wines that have been produces with grapes from the Southwestern French regions Haut-Armagnac, Tenareze and Bas-Armagnac.
How is Armagnac made?
Armagnac is made of a blend of Folle blanche, Colombard, and Baco Blanc grapes – interestingly, these are grapes that generally produce a not so pleasant wine. Contrary to Cognac, Armagnac is usually only distilled once before it is aged in oak barrels. The single distillation leads to a longer maturation process in the barrel, compared to cognac.
If you can see three stars on the bottle label, it has matured for at least two years. The label V.S.O.R indicates a maturation of at least five years and the indication Napoleon and X.O. means that is has aged in a barrel for at least six years. The label “Hors d’Age means that the Armagnac has spent at least 10 years in the barrel.
Do you want to distill wine without a still?
Check out our post about freeze distillation and how to distill wine without a still. Follow our recipe to create a great and falvorful fortified wine.
The first references of Brandy dates back to the 13th century – at this time, brandy was used as a medicinal drink in France. Nowadays, brandy is a popular digestive liquor with an average of 35-60% alcohol by volume. It is made around the world from wine. The grape mash (or wine) is usually distilled twice before the colorless distillate is aged in barrels for an extended period of time. The use of oak barrels gives the brandy its distinctive caramel brown color. Good brandy as matured for at least two years up to 10 years or more.
Distilling wine at home into brandy
You can create your own moonshine brandy by distilling cheap wine and running it through the still twice. Alternatively, you can also create your own mash with grapes or even grape juice. Most hobby distillers either produce amounts too small to fill an entire barrel or want to avoid the years of storage. Therefore, the most common way to age a home distilled brandy is with pre-roasted oak chips that are added to the distillate. With this technique, the brandy already gets a nice color after a few weeks of maturing.
Cognac – One of the most popular wine distillates
Cognac is one of the most well-known brandies in the world with an average of 40% ABV. The designation “cognac” is restricted to brandy that is made exclusively of white grapes and is distilled in the area in and around Cognac in Western Franc.
Cognac is always distilled at least twice, sometimes even three times. After distillation it is aged in French oak barrels for two or more years. During this time, the liquor develops the characteristic brown color.
Grappa is a clear Italian spirit made of the pomace of the grapes. So basically, the grappa production process uses the waste material of the wine production and molds it into something fantastic. Traditional Italian recycling at its best. It is mostly around 40% ABV but can be as strong as 65% ABV.
Marc is a French pomace spirit and is, like Italian grappa, produced from the residue resulting from the production of wine. The flavor greatly depends from the grape variety that was used and can be very strong but also comparably mellow for an alcohol content between 80 and 90 proof.
Next to Ouzo, Metaxa is one of the most famous Greek spirits. It is distilled from red Muscat grapes. Any Greek metaxa bottle is aged for at least three years and the amount of stars a bottle indicated the amount of years that it has matured in a barrel.
Pisco is the national drink of Peru and Chile and has become known around the world as the main ingredient of the Pisco Sour cocktail. Few people, however, know that pisco is also a wine distillate from black muscatel grapes. After distillation, pisco is matured in clay casks and therefore keeps its transparent color.
Weinbrand is a German grape brandy. It’s name translates to “burned wine” – describing the distillation process. Similar to other brandys, weinbrand is stored in oak casks. However, the minimum maturation is only six months and therefore much shorter than most brandys. Weinbrand is, like cognac, double distilled with at least 38% ABV.
These are the most famous wine distillates from around the world. Have you distilled a brandy or any other spirit from the list above yourself? Let us know about your experiences in the comment section below.