What’s The Difference Between VS & VSOP Brandy?
If you’ve ever purchased or drank brandy, you’ll know their labels can be a little bit confusing. There will be a selection of letters on the label, but what do those letters mean? In this blog post we hope to help you understand the different letters that you might see on your brandy bottle, and what they mean.
The key thing to remember is that the letters on the bottles actually stand for the age of the spirit inside the bottle. That’s right, the letters on your bottle of Cognac or Armagnac don’t refer to some weird code, it’s just telling you the age.
Sounds easy, right? However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Unlike a bottle of wine which simply has the year of the grapes on it, brandy is a little more confusing. So, let’s look at what the different letters mean when you find them on your bottles.
Types Of Brandy
VO stands for very old. It basically means that the drink has been aged for a minimum of four years. Compared to Whisky it doesn’t sound like anything, but grapes & malts age very differently so 4 years is a very long time. The ageing process allows for flavours to mellow and mingle with the casks in which it is aged.
VS stand for very special. This is like a three-star alcohol. The VS letters are used on the youngest Cognac and Armagnac in the blend. They must be a minimum of 2 years old.
VSOP can stand for Very Superior Old Pale or Very Special Old Pale. The old pale name comes from the use of the caramel colouring in the drink. For a Cognac to be a VSOP it must be at least 4 years old. An Armagnac needs to be at least 5 years old to be classed as a VSOP, but it will often be much older.
XO stands for Extra Old. The ‘extra’ used to stand for the drinks that were at least 6 years old. However, this changed in early 2016 where a drink has to be at least 10 years old to qualify for the XO labelling.
So, now you know the brandy alphabet which should make understanding your drinks much easier. However, the key thing to remember is that the terms ‘special’ and ‘extra’ (or S and X) often mean that they will cost a something extra special too, so may not be as friendly on your wallet as the brandies without the S and X markings.
Where Does Cognac Fall On The Scale?
Truth be told, Cognac doesn’t sit in one place on the Brandy Age Scale.
Cognac simply refers to a brandy made from Cognac grapes, that are grown, harvested, pressed & then aged in the Cognac region of France. Very similar to Champagne or Prosecco, it gets its name from it’s locality rather than it’s ageing.