Brandy is an alcohol made from fermented fruit, distilled in such a way as to still retain some of the taste of the fruit. Brandy must be aged a minimum of two years; they are usually aged 3 to 7 years in oak casks.
Brandies made in France are called in France “eau de vie”, unless they are special brandies such as Cognac or Armagnac. When exported from France, “eau de vie” is called French Brandy.
Made from grape juice or crushed grapes that are fermented. If a Brandy just says Brandy, it has been made from grapes.
Made with the leftovers after grapes are first crushed to make wine. The leftover squished grapes are then pressed to extract what juice is left, from which the Brandy is made. Grappa is made in this way.
Brandy that is made from any fruit other than grapes.
VS stands for Very Special. It means the Brandy has been aged for 2 years.
VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale. It means the Brandy has been aged anywhere from 4 to 15 years.
XO versions are more expensive; they have been aged anywhere from 15 to 50 years.
A whiskey or Brandy extract, or a juice such as grape juice, apple juice, depending on what kind of Brandy was asked for.
Food monopolies and restrictions are nothing new to the French way of doing business. Louis XIV (1638-1715) granted a monopoly in France on making strong alcoholic drinks to the makers of Brandies. This meant that whiskey, gin, vodka, etc, couldn’t be made or sold (legally, at any rate) in France. The monopoly lasted until 1789. A good deal of gin was smuggled in, none-the-less.
Our English word Brandy comes from the Dutch word for Brandy, “brandewijn”. In Dutch, that meant “burnt wine”, referring to the boiling/distillation process.