I saw a curious article in Forbes titled, 6 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Cognac. Okay, okay, okay! I admit everything! I couldn’t stop myself from clicking on it! But here’s the thing: I didn’t click on it for my usual reason: that I think I’m so knowledgeable. The truth is that I don’t know much about cognac other than that it is the only kind of widely available brandy that is at all drinkable. And that it comes from Cognac, France. And, of course, that it is regulated by the government like the rest of the French alcohol industry.
No, I was struck by the parenthetical “probably.” The article is, after all, in Forbes. And I suspect that the sort of person who reads Forbes thinks of themselves as pretty sophisticated. So throwing the “probably” in the title is a sop to their more insecure readers. The truth is, I was expecting to learn some things from the article. And I did! For example, I found out that cognac is rated from worst to best as: VS, VSOP, XO, and Extra.
Cognac Is All About Quality
This explains something that has been bothering me. I recently bought some cognac and I found that I didn’t like it as much as I remembered. So I just checked the label, and it is VS. I’m used to VSOP. So there you go!
But I was shocked by this line in the article, “It’s basically brandy.” Well, I can’t say that I knew that, because it is wrong. Cagnac is brandy. The statement in the article is like saying, “The Porsche 918 Spyder is basically a car.” I would assume that anyone who had ever tasted cognac would know that it is brandy. I’m not very aware of the outside world. Yet even with my tenuous grip on reality I am able to discern that it is brandy based upon my amazing ability to taste food and drink.
Forbes Readers Are Ignorant Snobs
Then it hit me: of course readers of Forbes would be surprised to learn that cognac is brandy. So surprised, in fact, that the article has to hedge on this fact. “It’s basically brandy.” If you look at a bottle of Hennessy, you will not find the word “brandy” anywhere. In the past, I’ve drunk cognac, not because I have a special fondness for it but simply because it was the best brandy that was readily available.
But for the Forbes set, it is probably a big deal that cognac is this thing that is expensive and thus good. For them, it is categorically different from brandy. So I image the editors concerned about this. “If we just say it is brandy, we’ll get angry letters!” But the most interesting thing about this is that for the Forbes reader, the fact that cognac is brandy probably was one thing they didn’t know about cognac. And it’s very sad. Or hilarious. It depends upon your perspective.