V.S.O.P. means “very superior/special old pale” – “pale” in German is “blass, bleich” and refers to the colour. Am glaubwürdigsten scheint mir die Erklärung, dass Brandy, d.h. Schnaps, ursprünglich kristallklar ist und durch die Lagerung in den Eichenfässern nicht mehr völlig farblos, sondern “pale” ist.
The letter designations used in classifying cognac derive from English words, as it was formerly the English who were the primary consumers of cognac. The first (and youngest) designation, aged a minimum of two and a half years in barrels is:
- VS — Very Special
- VSOP — Very Superior Old Pale, minimum four years
- NAPOLEON — Minimum six years
- X.O./EXTRA OLD– Also minimum of six years, though most cognacs of this designation are much older, with the six year age denoting only the youngest cognacs used in the blend
A cognac can only be designated with the classification of the youngest cognac used in the blend, so while a fine four-year old may be blended with a six- or eight-year-old, it will still be labeled VSOP, for the use of the four-year old cognac.
Hier eine interessante Geschichte zur Entstehung des Cognacs:
The early brandies were crystal-clear in color until the 18th century, when France was engaged in one of the many European wars that put a temporary halt to the exporting of luxury beverages. The stalwart French wine producers stored their brandy in small oak barrels for the duration of the war, fully aware that after engaging in a long battle what a soldier really wanted was a good drink. Pillaging and plundering can build up quite a thirst. After several years, they opened the barrels, and the brandy had taken on color and flavor from the oak and become better tasting. Pleased with the new product, the cognac makers decided they didn’t need an actual war to urge them to age their product and thus took to the process wholeheartedly, in war and peace.