Brandy is a liquor distilled from wine (brandy) or fermented fruit juice (fruit brandy). Is is then are aged in wood containers, which contributes flavor and color. The name "brandy" comes from the Dutch brandewijn, meaning "burned wine".
The best known of all wine based brandies is the French Cognac produced in the Cognac (Charente) region of France. A relative of the Cognac is the Armagnac. It has a richer taste but less finesse than the Cognac.
Several other countries than France produce brandies. Some of them are Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Germany, the United States, Chile and Peru.
The Spanish brandies are a by-product of the production of sherry. They have a full flavor and are slightly sweet.
One famous Greek brandy is the Metaxa. It is distilled from red grapes, sweetened and flavored with herbs.
South American brandy
The best known South American brandy is the Pisco, national drink of Chile.
Brandy is not always distilled from the wine. Marc, from France, and grappa, from Italy, are distilled from the remaining skins, husks and stems of the wine production. They are not always aged and have a light yellow color (if any).
Most fruit brandies are made from fermented fruit mash (such as apples and pears), but other sugar-poor fruits not capable of fermentation (such as raspberries and blackberries) can be soaked in neutral spirits and then re-distilled. Most fruit brandies are aged in steel, glass or clay containers, keeping them colorless and clear.
Within the general category of fruit brandies, a distinction is made between distillates from pomaceous fruits, stone fruits and berries.
Brandy from pomaceous fruits
This is fruit brandy made from apple and pear. A must or cider is made from the fruit, aged and then distilled. This produce a raw distillate with high alcohol content. The distillate is then diluted with water and sometimes aged on casks. The best known apple brandy is Calvados.
Brandy from stone fruits
The most important stone-fruit brandy is kirschwasser made from sweet or sour cherries. Other popular stone-fruit brandies are plum brandy and apricot brandy.
Brandy from berries
Most berries have too little fruits to ferment properly, and are soaked in neutral spirits which absorbs the flavors. The alcohol and berries is then distilled. The best known berry-brandy is the raspberry brandy, but brandies are also made from bilberries, blackberries, strawberries, black and red currant and cranberries.
Fruit brandies are either served neat as an aperitif or used in mixed drinks. Fruit brandy served neat should not be chilled.