Brandy Prices Guide 2020 – 10 Most Popular Brandy Brands in US

Brandy Prices Guide

Brandy Brands Information

Brand

Country

Type

Ranked

United States

Traditional

Budget

E&J

United States

Traditional

Budget

Christian Brothers 

United States

Traditional

Budget

Korbel 

United States

Traditional

Budget

Presidente 

Mexico

Traditional

Budget

France

Cognac

Premium

France

Cognac

Premium

France

Cognac

Premium

France

Cognac

Premium

Torres 10 

Spain

Traditional

Budget

Emperador 

Philippines

Traditional

Budget

A Little Background on Brandy

Brandy is a spirit made from the distillation of wine. Often, brandy will be produced using mainly white grapes. However, brandy can be made from the fermentation of any fruit. There are several types of brandy, which we will discuss later, and each presents unique ingredients that impact taste and price point.

Jurisdictional Requirements

As with any form of alcohol, each major jurisdiction has its own requirements for a product to be considered a brandy.

In the European Union, a brandy must be produced from only distilled grape based wine, eliminating fruit products from their list of spirits allowed to be called brandy. The EU only requires that brandy be aged in oak for a minimum of six months.

The United States has some different requirements of brandy producers. If a brandy is produced utilizing a product other than grapes, it must be labeled as such (i.e.: Peach Brandy or Apple Brandy). The U.S. is more strict on the aging process, as well, requiring brandies to be aged for a minimum of two years in oak casks. Otherwise, the bottle must be clearly labeled “immature” and no one wants to be called that.

Finally, the Canadians opted for a looser definition, only requiring that brandies be distillates of wine. Aging restrictions are minimal, as Canadian regulations say it only needs to be aged for six months in wood - not necessarily oak.

It is important to note how these jurisdictional requirements might impact pricing. The less time required for aging, the more expeditious the overall production process is. As a brandy spends more time “on the rack” aging in casks, it is going unsold.

This is why you will often see older spirits, not just brandy, costing significantly more depending on their age. Pricier brandies are quite proud of the age of the product and you will often see aging information on the label, which we will discuss later.

Types of Brandy

Types of Brandy

There are three types of brandy. Unlike many spirits, the differences between each type are very obvious. The three types are:

  • brandy
  • cognac
  • armagnac

Brandy simply follows the definition that it must be made from distilled wine - any fruit variety will do. Cognac is far more particular, as it must be made in the specific region of France known as...COGNAC. Finally, armagnac is a lesser known variety of brandy that is made in a region of France known as - you guessed it - Armagnac.

Armagnac is lesser known simply because of its tiny production and like of big name producers. Cognac on the other hand sports popular names like Hennessy and Courvoisier. You could think of armagnac as more of a “craft” brandy made in that region of France.

As you can imagine, brandy pricing is certainly impacted on the exclusiveness of these regions. Cognac often tips the scale of brandy prices higher and all of them would be considered “premium” options based on our scale.

Why is Cognac so Expensive?

We touched on it a little bit in the previous section but cognac is often found to be remarkably more expensive than other types of brandy. Why is this the case?

Simply put, cognac is an ultra exclusive group of brandies. It is exclusive not only in region, similar to Scotch Whiskey, but is even more exclusive by requiring it be made from the white grapes of one of six areas of Cognac, France called “terroirs”. One of the most exclusive brandy grapes from the area is called “Grande Champagne”. With a name like that, you know it will be expensive.

Another major impact on the higher pricing of Cognac brandy is its requirements for aging. A cognac must be aged for at least two years in French oak casks. After those two years, it gets the pleasure of being considered a VS (more on the letters later).

Cognac producers take their blends very seriously, as most cognac is a blend of often dozens of different distillations of wine. Of course, there is a fancy term for them - eaux de vie. Hennessy prides itself, for example, on its daily tasting review and approval of their blends (quite the job perk for Hennessy employees).

What Grade does your Brandy Get?

Brandy Grade

Brandy receives a grade but it is not based on how many answers it gets correct on tests. The grade reflects the age of the brandy, more specifically, the age of the youngest brandy in the blend. 

Cognac and Armagnac use the below grading system as part of the regulatory process. Brandy made outside of these regions may use an alternate system, more explicit age declarations, or a loose version of the system. Remember, the grade applies to the youngest brandy in the blend, so some others in the blend could be older.

  • VS or Three Stars: Aged a minimum of two years in a cask.
  • VSOP or Five Stars: The youngest is the group aged at least four years.
  • XO: Originally required six years but was changed to ten in 2016.

As we mentioned earlier, the older the brandy, the pricier it gets. One of the major pricing drivers is the time brandy spends in a cask.

Final Thoughts on Brandy Pricing

Brandy Grape

Unlike many spirits, brandy pricing impacts are quite straightforward. One glance at our brandy brand ranking chart will show you the major difference. If it is made in the Cognac region of France, thus rendering the brandy a cognac, then it will likely fall into the premium category. 

Brandy connoisseurs will tell you that sometimes price does matter. However, just because a brandy is not made in Cognac, France, it can still be delicious. In fact, if you are looking for a fruit based brandy, you will have to explore other regions as all cognac is made from grapes.

Expensive brandy is often aged longer, inclusive of exclusive ingredients, and a product of one of the larger cognac producers. However, do not let price drive your decision when it comes to choosing which brandy you might enjoy the most!

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