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Only brandy made from Grapes grown in the delimited district of France in the Charente known as Cognac may be named cognac. The boundaries of this area were set down in 1909 and have been subdivided into seven divisions of varying quality. In order of preference, they are: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires and Bois à Terroir. All cognac is made from wine that is fermented from whole grapes - flesh, skins, seeds and all. The resulting wine is double-distilled in pot stills, and the heart of the second distillation is destined to become cognac. It is aged in new oak casks for one year, and then transferred to used oak casks, lest it take on too much tannin from the virgin oak.
The letters on the label V.O. and V.S.O.P. mean that the cognac has been aged for at least 4 and a half years, although in practice V.S.O.P. cognacs have usually been aged for at least 8 years. If the label is printed with the words Extra, Napoléon or Vieille Réserve, the French government warrants that the cognac in the bottle has been aged for a minimum of 5 and a half years. Stars found on cognac labels came from a superstitious shipper of brandy who put a star on his bottles to pay homage to the great "Comet" vintage of 1811, one of the best ever for cognac. Today, French law states that three-star cognac, the youngest, must be aged for a minimum of 18 months.