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California brandies.

Innovative techniques are bringing new brandies to market.

Brandy has long been called liquid gold, the soul of the grape and the heart of wine. Because brandy is distilled from wine, nearly every country that makes wine, makes brandy. And, just as each region's wine differes from others, so does its brandy.

In Spain, brandy tends to be full-bodied, dark and rather sweet. In Italy, it is rich with a touch of sweetness. In France, cognac has a smooth, silky taste, while Armagnac has a robust, earthly flavor. Only in California is brandy light, fresh and fruity.

California brandy, with its luminous amber shading and delicate fruit fragrance is, by far, the most popular brandy in the United States. over 95 percent of all brandy made in this county is made in California. Despite the fact that brandy has been made in California for over 200 years, it was only 30 years ago Americans took a new look at this brandy, possibly the most versatile of all spirits.

Brandy's Versatility

And how versatile is that? Sip it straight as a classic postprandial drink. Add the tartness of a lemon, the sparkle of soda, pour over ice and you have an aperitif. Blend it into Mahattans, Old-Fashioneds, sours, fizzes and punches. Substitute it for scotch, vodka, gin or bourbon. Add a splash of brandy to hot tea, or add it to hot coffee and top with whipped cream. In winter, warm up with a bran3y toddy or a brandy in hot apple cider. In summer, make it part of a sangria, julep or collins.

In cooking, add an ounce of brandy for each bowl of French onion soup; or a couple of ounces to a pound of ground beef for sensational hamburgers. Pour brandy in the pan in which you've broiled steak, combine with the natural juices, ignite and serve over the meat. Saute scallops or chicken livers, add a bit of brandy and ignite.

Of all California brandy labels, the largest selling is E & J Gallo, leading with sales estimated over 2 million cases a year. Next, with 1.3 million cases, is Christian Brothers, which produces both a regular brandy and X.O. Rare Reserve, a special brandy that is made half by the traditional, slow pot-still method as cognac is, and half by the continous still method. (Almost all California brandy is made by continuous still.) Third place in sales goes to Korbel brandy, followed by Paul Masson and Almaden.

Ther is another, small group of California brandy producers who distill their brandy totally by pot still. This original method, which dates back centuries, distills small batches at a time over several hours. A continuous still, as the name implies, runs continously, distilling 1,000 gallons of brandy an hour.

Each of the new pot-still distillers produce very small amounts of brandy, counting their production in the hundreds or low as the other leading brands do. Their brandy tends to be fuller-bodied, quite aromatic, but still displaying the fruity flavors so characteristic of California brandy. One of the best among the new-bread distillers is Germain Robin.

With uses so versatile and prices so low E & J Gallo and Christian Brothers regular brandies begin at $12 a bottle), brandy covers would do well to look to California brands. They'll discover gold in them thar stills.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Fried, Bruce
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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