Writings on the bottle

Content:

Denomination under which it is sold (Cognac)
Brand name
Additional name
Name of a person within the distributional network (importer)
Vendor and vendors address
Producer
Content
Standard drink and UK unit of alcohol
Estimated sign
Alcohol content
Ageing designations
Cru
Appellation Controlée
Fine
Early Landed
Logo or emblem
Medals
Royal or imperial warrants
Cotisation Sécurité Social symbol
Excise-duty symbols
Paper seal
Französisches Erzeugnis
Ausländisches Erzeugnis
Recycling symbol
Tidyman symbol
Tidyman glass symbol
Green point symbol
Pregnancy icon
Government Warning
echantillon gratuit
Federal Law forbids reuse
Appendix: milliliters, fluid ounces and more

Denomination

It is required to state on the label that the content is in fact cognac. If you can not find the word ‘cognac’,  you can be pretty sure the bottle does not contain real cognac. An exception can be made for some very old bottles, way before the Second World War. These bottles can only have the brand name stated, or are just called brandy. But most bottles that say brandy – and certainly all younger bottles – are not real cognacs.

 

Brand name

The brand name is always on the label. It is not necessarily the same as the producer’s name. The name of the producer is sometimes not mentioned at all, for instance for some supermarket chains that like to sell cognac under their own name.

Additional name

Sometimes a bottle is worthy to get its own name. They are sometimes called after names of relatives or they have beautiful poetic names.

This old bottle of Hubert de Polignac is called Dynastie  Brugerolle: Aigle rouge  Solène, naam van dochter

Name of person within the distributional network

Bottles are sometimes imported by companies in such great numbers, that they have asked to have their name and address stated. They are not necessarily the vendor. It can be stated as the firm that imported the bottle or even the firm that has bottled the cognac.

Vendor and vendors address

More or less the same as mentioned above for persons within the distributional network.

Producer

The name of the producer is usually mentioned, as is his address. This is not however obligated. Very often it is printed at the bottom of the label. Sometimes on the back-side of the bottle.

Content

It is obligatory to state the content of the bottle. This may be done in milliliters, centiliters or liters. On older bottles it could be mentioned using fluid ounces, quarts or pints, either in Imperial (UK) or in US measures. More on fluid ounces, quarts, pints and gallons in a separate paragraph below.

Standard Drinks and UK unit of alcohol

Unit of masurement to measure the amount of alcohol someone has drunk, developed in the nineteen-eighties. In some countries it is mandatory to put the number of standard units it contains on the bottle. This way it should be easier to know how much alcohol someone has consumed. There are two major problems: each country uses a different standard and the glasses used for a drink usually deviate from the standard glass size for the drink.

In the UK the standard drink was used between 1984 and 1987 in the UK guidelines for ‘safe limits’ for drinking. But they were replaced in the 1987 guidelines by units of alcohol, where 1 unit of alcohol equals 10 millilitres (or 8 grams) of pure alcohol. On a bottle you may find a pictogram with the total amount of units of alcohol.

Estimated sign

The estimated sign is the letter ‘e’ standardized to look exactly like this:
It certifies that the contents of the bottle comply with certain criteria that are specified, especially that the content is not less than the nominal quatity that is stated.
It was introduced in 1976 by a EU-directive.

Alcoholic content

The alcohol content is also obligatory on cognac bottles. Except for some rare exceptions it is always at least 40°. It must be stated in percentage of alcohol by volume. On older bottles you may find Gay-Lussac or Proof.
Gay-Lussac is roughly the same as alcohol by volume. 1 Proof is in the US a half percent of alcohol by volume. So 80° proof is eaqual to 40°alc/vol. In the UK it is 7/4 of alcohol by volume. So 70° proof is 40° alc/vol.

They are not required. They give information about the number of years a cognac has been stored in wooden casks before it was bottled. Some ageing designations are controlled by the BNIC, so the buyer has a warrant that the cognac is at least as old as it says it is. These are VS, VSOP, Napoléon and XO.
If there is no age indication whatsoever present, you can safely assume that the cognac is as young as a VS.
Other designations are not controlled by the BNIC. There exist well over a hundred of them. Some that are often used are: ‘de luxe’, ‘spécial’, ‘supérieur’, ‘vieille’, ‘vieille réserve’,  ‘réserve de la famille’, ‘héritage’, ‘hors d’age’. They all correspond with a minimum number of years of the official designations, but are usually substantially older. But you have to believe the producer on this, because there is no official check.

Cru

The cru indicates from which region the cognac originates. There are six different cru’s and each cru corresponds with a certain quality. They are, in order of quality: grande champagne, petite champagne, borderies, fins bois, bons bois and bois ordinaires. If ‘cru’ is stated on the bottle it means that all of the cognac originates from that cru. A ‘blend’ is the opposite of a ‘cru’. A blend cognac consists of cognacs of different cru’s.
Noteworthy is the term ‘fine champagne’. It is not really a cru, but it means the cognac is made out of grande champagne and petite champagne only, and at least 50% grande champagne. It is not to be confused with ‘fine cognac’, which has no other meaning than to say it is ‘good cognac’, for wathever that is worth.

Appellation controlée

Appellation Controlée is a certification to guarantee the cognac was produced in the specified region. So you can have ‘Appellation Cognac Controlée’, but als in combination with the cru: ‘Appellation Fins Bois Controlée’. There is one acception: the last cru (bois ordinaires) is the only cru that not has the right to bear an appellation controlée specification. ‘Fine champagne’ on the other hand, does have this right.

Fine

The adjective ‘Fine’ can be used in combination with the word cognac, in combination with a cru-name or together with the word ‘champagne’. The first possibility does not have any real meaning other than to say it is ‘good’ cognac. In combination with a cru-name it is saying that the cognac for 100% originates from the specified region (cru). Together with the word ‘champagne’ it guarantees that a minimum of 50% originates from grande champagne and all the rest from petite champagne.

Early landed

It has long been a custom to ship cognacs to England very soon after distillation. Here they were stored for decades in damp cellars near the shores. These cognacs are called ‘early landed’. Since some years now, this is forbidden by the French law. To have the right to call it cognac, they are required to age in the region where they originate from.

Almost each brand has its own logo or emblem. It can be in the way the name is written, or it can be a picture of something characteristic to the brand or the owner. It serves as an eye-catcher, so the buyer can easily recognize the bottles of his favorite brand. It can be a picture of the house, a picture of a person, a coat of arms or an allegorical image.

Albert Jarraud   Bonnin   Guillon Painturaud

Medals

Cognac producers often participate in competitions where several cognacs are compared to each other. There are prizes to be won, usually bronze, silver and gold medals. These medals are sometimes depicted on the label or are represented by a seperate sticker on the bottle.

   

Royal or imperial warrants

Some producers have had the good fortune to receive a royal or imperial warrant, meaning they were choosen to supply their products to the royal or imperial court. It is a recognition by the royal or imperial family of the outstanding quality of their products. With this recognition they earned the right to portray the royal arms or the imperial arms on their products.

Imperial coat of armes (used by Courvoisier)  royal coat of arms (used by Courvoisier)  royal coat of arms of Denmark, used by De Luze  Monnet to become royal supplier for the court of Sweden

Cotisation Securité Social symbol

The cotisation symbol has been used between 1984 and 2000. It indicated that tax was payed to counter the health risks involved in immoderate use of the product. Also known as ‘vignette sécurité sociale’ (VSS).

 

Excise-duty symbols

The following texts and symbols are among many to be found on cognac bottles:

HKDNP = Hong Kong Duty Not Paid.    Singapore Duty Not Paid symbol
Malaysian Duty Not Paid
Duty Free – Philippines
China Duty Not Paid
Singapore Duty Not Paid
Duty Free Sales Only

On a Camus bottle of Limoges porcelain

In Italy small round metal seals were used from around 1930 until 1959:

They were attached around the neck with a little rope.

More on this topic on the page ‘How old is my bottle’.

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Excise duty symbol UKOn the left is a seal in use in the UK from 2006.

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Paper seals

A paper sealing of the capsule is used to prevent fraudulous actions and tampering and to warrant the autenticity of the product.Tax stamp on a Martell bottle.
They can also be tax stamps.

In Italy they started using them in 1959 and they are still in use. In the US they began using them in 1934 and stopped around 1985. When a date is stated on such a seal, it is not the bottling date but the date of distillation.

More on this topic on the page ‘How old is my bottle’.

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Französisches Erzeugnis

Stating that the product was produced in France. Used on bottles that were sold in Germany.

Ausländisches Erzeugnis

Stating that the product was produced abroad. This is of course only used on bottles that were sold outside Frace, particularly in Austria.

Recycling symbol

This started after 1994. Widely used is the Mobius loop. It only indicates the object is capable of being recycled (first created in 1970 for World Earth Day).

Tidyman symbol

Reminder as to dispose of the material toughtfully, like a good citizen. Invented in de US in the 1950’s. Introduced in the UK after 1969.bla

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Tidyman glass symbol

A reminder to throw the glass container in a bin.

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Green point symbol

This symbol only means the producing company has contributed financially to recycling processes. Invented in Germany in the early 1990s.bla

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Pregnancy icon

Warns pregnant women not to consume the product (since 2006).

 

 

Government warning

According to US federal law it is obligatory since 1989 to warn drivers and pregnant women against the consumption of alcohol:
GOVERNMENT WARNING:
(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

Échantillon gratuit

This means so much as a ‘free sample’. Usually printed on a miniature bottle that was produced as a give away to make the public acquainted with the product.
Sometimes V.R.P. is added. This stands for Voyageur, représentant, placier. It means the bottle is produce to be given away by persons who work as sales representatives.

Federal Law statement

Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of this Bottle. This sentence was mandatory from 1935 till 1964 on bottles containing alcohol and was placed on the glass in embossed letters.

Appendix: milliliters, fluid ounces and more

Usually content is given in milliliter (ml), centiliter (cl) or Liter (L), but you come across other denominators: fluid ounce, pint, quart and gallon. Unfortunately these have different values in the US and the UK.

UK
1 fluid ounce (floz.) equals 2.84cl and is also called imperial fluid ounce to distinguish it from the US fluid ounce. 1 fl.oz. is 1/20th of a pint or imperial pint.
1 pint is 56.83cl and two pints is equal to a quart or imperial quart. So a quart is 113.65cl (rounded off to 114).
1 Gallon equals 160 fluid ounces, which amounts to 4.55L. So 1 Gallon equals 8 pints or 4 quarts.

1 Gallon = 4.55L
1 Quart = 1.14L
1 Pint = 56.8 cl
1 Fluid Ounce = 2.84cl

US
1 fluid ounce (floz.) equals 2.95735296875cl (rounded off to 2.96cl) and is also called US fluid ounce to distinguish it from the imperial fluid ounce in the UK. 1 fl.oz. is 1/16th of a pint or US pint.
1 pint is 47.3176473cl and two pints is equal to a quart or US quart. So a quart is 94.6352946cl (rounded off to 94.6 or 95cl).
1 Gallon equals 128 fluid ounces, which amounts to 3.78L. So 1 Gallon equals 8 pints or 4 quarts.

1 Gallon = 3.78L
1 Quart = 0.95L
1 Pint = 47.3 cl
1 Fluid Ounce = 2.96cl


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