COGNAC: The Seductive Saga of the World's Most Coveted Spirit

Kyle Jarrard, Author . Wiley $24.95 (244p) ISBN 978-0-471-45944-6

It's fitting that a Paris-based novelist and International Herald Tribune editor should chronicle the history of the famously refined French brandy. And Jarrard does a nice job of it, offering a thorough, well-researched and objective history of cognac. He begins with a geological history of the French province of Charente, on the Atlantic coast, where the town of Cognac is located. The Romans brought the first grapes to the region, but it would be centuries before viniculture really took root there. The earliest attempts to make what we now call cognac began during the Middle Ages, as alchemists and apothecaries experimented with putting local grape pressings through their distillation apparatuses. While France evolved from a feudal kingdom into an imperial, colonial power, the cognac-making process developed, although factors like weather and warfare often prevented distilleries from obtaining the necessary raw materials. By the Napoleonic era, however, cognac began appearing on the world market, and its makers worked at refining their product and their methods as demand for the elegant, amber, aromatic brandy increased. Jarrard brings the story to the present, examining the various brands dominating the market today, including Hennessy, Rémy-Martin and Courvoisier. Although a more driving narrative and some strongly defined characters would've given this text more life, it's a must for aficionados. B&w photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-470-31832-4
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-68162-914-8
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