Vintage Grande Champagne Cognacs:
Hine 1972, Hine 1977
Vintage cognac is not a French
invention. It is British. Yes, French cognac producers can have a
vintage dated product, with rare exceptions it is probably young,
since, until about ten years ago, there was no real mechanism for
aging cognac in the region in bond so that it could be vintage dated.
Vintage means that the particular spirit is produced from wines made
in that year and distilled, as is all cognac, immediately after fermentation
stops; is barreled, put into bond, and not topped. Normally, in the
Cognac region, distillates are “topped up,” that is to
say the amount that evaporates from cask during aging is replaced
with either the same or a similar distillate, keeping the cask full.
This is done until the spirit gets old enough, and is then put into
large glass demijohns.
Vintage cognac as devised by the British, is young distillate, usually
from the best production area, Grande
Champagne, shipped in cask to England usually a year or two
old, and aged in damp cellars where the alcoholic content does not
go up and the spirit does not darken with age.
In drier Cognac region
cellars, alcohol goes up in strength due to faster water evaporation
and the cognac darkens. In damp British cellars, the cognac remains
very pale and its degree of alcohol falls naturally due to alcohol
evaporation, not needing the addition of water to reduce the strength
as is done in the Cognac region.
Thus this cognac develops a great floral perfume with a unique, delicious,
soft delicate flavor. In Britain, these cognacs are called “Early
Landed” and are now becoming rare. In fact, with the
acquisition of the old, early landed specialist family firm of Hine
by LVMH, Hine began buying back stocks of its cognacs aging in Britain
for bottling in France since this was the only way to have the vintage
date on them.
For almost 30 years Corti Brothers has offered this Early
Landed style of cognac. It is a real revelation to anyone
who likes his brandy pale colored, dry, fragrant, and very long
flavored. This is not your style if you like dark, full bodied,
rich, pungent brandy.
In order to offer vintage dated, early landed cognac,
Corti Brothers buys casks of young spirit and ages them until they
fall naturally to 80 proof or 40% alcohol without adding water. We
still have casks of 1982 Delamain Grande
Champagne, aging in Bristol, England. Depending on how they
taste, they will be bottled in the next year or two. This is not an
exercise for the faint of heart. Nor do we pretend to be a “pro
This said, here is your last chance to buy our
current bottlings of early landed vintage cognac at their
original prices. In 2005, the prices go up! Please take advantage
of these current prices. Cognac with bottle age is really
terrific. The late professor James Guymon, California’s only brandy expert, used to say: “I
can’t prove it (scientifically), but I’m convinced
that all alcohol improves in bottle.”