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California Brandy

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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)

The spirit Called and labeled "California Brandy" is always pure grape brandy, distilled from wine. Brandies distilled from fruit other than grapes are required by law to be labeled with the designation of the particular fruit from which they are derived, such as "Apple Brandy." Federal regulations define brandy as a distillate obtained solely from the fermented juice or wine of the fruit, distilled at less than r9o proof and bottled at not less than 8o proof. Only beverage brandies are discussed here, those which are available to the public. Much high-proof brandy is also made, used in the production of aperitif and dessert wines.

Proof is an ancient term for the alcoholic strength of spirits or liquors. In the United States proof spirit or ioo° proof spirit contains 5o per cent alcohol by volume, absolute alcohol being zoo° proof spirit. Whereas wines are always labeled with the percentage of alcohol they contain by volume, brandies, like other spirits, indicate their proof. Most California brandies are about 84 proof (42 per cent alcohol by volume), the bottled-in-bond brandies being 100 proof (50 per cent alcohol by volume), like all bonded liquors.

Nearly all the (grape) brandies produced in the United States are distilled in California and derived from California wines, although some of them are blended or bottled elsewhere. The two most popular kinds of brandy produced in the United States are brandy (as grape brandy is always referred to) and apple brandy, distilled from the fermented juice of apples, and also known as apple jack. Apple brandy is made in various parts of the country, including California.

Experiments with other types of fruit brandy have, so far, not been generally successful in this country. Some California producers during and immediately after the Second World War made con- , siderable quantities of fruit brandies, particularly plum and apricot. Difficulties were encountered, however, principally because of the fact that a high content of methyl alcohol resulted which brought on complications. The flavor was not very desirable, anyway, and the sugar content of stone fruit is so low compared to grapes and apples that the production of brandy from them proved commercially unprofitable. Further experiments are being made and it is entirely possible that eventually fruit brandies which find a ready acceptance in Europe, such as apricot brandy (barack palinka), blackberry brandy, cherry brandy (kirsch), plum brandy (slivovitz, mirabelle, and quetsch), raspberry brandy (eau-de-vie de framboises), and strawberry brandy (eau-de-vie de fraises) will also be produced in this country on a large scale. Some fine kirsch (cherry brandy) is produced in the West at Hood River, Oregon.

Such true fruit brandies must, of course, not be confused with the sweet liqueurs or cordials, such as apricot liqueur, which is called apricot brandy in Europe owing to differences in regulations. Nor must they be mistaken for what is known in the United States as "fruit-flavored brandies," which are also liqueurs or cordials, with a brandy base, and of a higher proof and usually less sweet than the regular liqueurs.

True brandies such as California brandy and apple brandy or apple jack in this country and foreign brandies like Cognac, Armagnac, Marc, Pisco, Calvados, Kirsch, Slivovitz, and many others are typically dry in character, although some may have a little sweetening added.