Brandy, an English corruption of the Dutch brandewijn, which literally means burned wine, is a spirit distilled from the fermented juice of fruits, especially grapes. Brandy is made wherever wine is produced and, like wine, varies greatly in

appearance, from almost colourless to deep glowing amber, in alcohol by volume, in quality, from the smooth mellowness of grande champagne Cognac to the rough fierceness of local grappa, and, naturally, in price, which depends on national or even regional origins. Its alcohol (strength), however, remains constant. The world’s largest producers of brandy are France and the United States. Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Greece and Italy also produce large amounts of brandy.

France is generally considered to produce the finest quality brandy in the world and in France, as in other brandy-

producing countries, the industry is rigidly controlled by law. Brandy produced in the Charente, for example, is exactly

identified by specific geographic area, is required to be distilled twice in copper-pot stills and is then aged for

several years in special oak casks before it is blended, bottled and sold as Cognac. In the United States the government

is even more closely involved and the origin, proof and substances added during distillation are federally regulated.

Of the other brandies, Armagnac, from the Gers area of Gascony, is considered to be of especially fine quality. Some of the brandies produced from fruit other than grapes are also excellent and are, by law, always clearly identified with the fruit of origin, such as apricot brandy, plum brandy and cherry brandy. CAL-VADOS, an apple brandy from Nor-mandy, is the best known of the fruit brandies and is, when well aged, a superior liqueur.

Most European and American vintners also produce a spirit from the pomate or pulp that remains after juice has been

extracted from the fruit. Colourless, odourless and fiery to taste, it is drunk in large quantities by those who distill

it and is called marc (pronounced mahr) in France and grappa in both Italy and the United States.

Brandy is usually drunk as an after-dinner liqueur and a ritual has grown up around its consumption. Large balloon-shaped

goblets are said to improve the bouquet, as is the practice of slightly heating the glass before the liqueur is drunk. In

most countries the human hand

was used for this function but special allowances were made for the British indoor winter and so the brandy-warmer or flame was born!

Brandy can be added to coffee, or served as an accompaniment to coffee. It is also a popular ingredient in many desserts.

It can be warmed slightly over a chafing dish or similar gentle heat and either set alight and poured over the fruit to be

flambeed or-the safer method, perhaps-poured over the fruit and then set alight.

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