As cognac ages, it matures and develops more intricate flavor profiles. It is in this aging that the value appreciates. The cognac aging system states that regardless of the date on which it was distilled, eau-de-vie begins its first year of life on April 1 of the year following its harvest. Thus eau-de-vie ages by one year every April 1 thereafter and is only considered cognac after a period of two years. Labeling designations always indicate the length of aging of the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend and is as follows:
VS (Very Special): at least 2 years.
VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): at least 4 years. XO (Extra Old): at least 6 years
Acquiring eau-de-vie and trading Cognac is no easy feat. Every year there is a certain amount of eau-de-vie produced from the 74,066 hectares of vineyards in the Cognac AOC region. Depending on the harvest the amount of eau-de-vie produced fluctuates yearly. To ensure a steady supply, the major cognac houses have engaged a large number of farmers in contractual agreements, requiring them to provide a certain amount of eau-de-vie annually.