ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can you tell me how long an open bottle of Cognac should last (and still taste good)? At 40 percent alcohol I would think a long time, but it is wine after all. I can’t seem to get a straight answer. If temperature is important I can store the open bottle in my wine cellar. I’m new to this Cognac thing.

—Richard L., Houston

Dear Richard,

If you’re new to Cognac, please let me point out this terrific story by Jack Bettridge, senior features editor for our sister publication Cigar Aficionado. For those not yet bitten by the Cognac bug, it’s probably because you haven’t tasted it. Cognac is wine that’s distilled and aged, and it is delicious.

Since Jack is the go-to guy for Cognac here, I passed your question on to him. He says that Cognac should last indefinitely in a glass bottle. “Having been distilled, it stops maturing in the way that wine does in the bottle and ages only while in contact with the wood of the cask it is stored in (much as whisk(e)y does). As long as it is sealed to keep it from evaporating, it will keep in the glass.”

He adds that some very fine Cognacs sometimes contain eau de vies created more than a century ago as part of their blends. But there is one caveat, he says. “As you drink through a bottle of Cognac, you might experience a slight loss of alcohol strength. This is because the enlarged air space in the bottle allows alcohol to evaporate into it. This is slight, however, and shouldn't alter the flavor markedly.”

I don’t get many questions about Cognac, but I do get a fair number of questions about Port, and I have a feeling that after reading your question, some Port lovers might wonder if the same applies to their beverage of choice. The answer is not really—after all, Port isn’t distilled, but fortified (which means it just has some spirits added to it).

—Dr. Vinny


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