Capturing the Spirit of Cognac

Six members of the Circle of Wine Writers (CWW) traveled to Cognac, France

Six members of the Circle of Wine Writers (CWW) traveled to Cognac, France from April 9th to 12th, 2018 to visit cognac producers from the designated growing areas of Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres and Dordogne.

A special thank you to our member Liz Palmer and the BNIC for organizing this amazing trip. Reports were written (and will be published shortly) by David Copp (UK), David Kermode (UK), Angela Reddin (UK), Jurgen Schmucking (Austria), Charlotte H.M. van Zummeren (Netherlands), and Liz Palmer (Canada), along with photography by Jurgen Schmucking and radio show program by David Kermode.

Along with meeting some wonderful people, we all had some amazing cultural and gastronomic experiences.

BNIC

On our first day, David Boileau, Ambassadeur du Cognac au BNIC gave us a presentation which included an overview of cognac production process, grapes, grades, producing regions, and 2017 export and economic figures.  This all took place at BNIC’s offices which was followed by a detailed tasting.

Six interesting takeaways are:

  1. 8% of cognac produced is exported;
  2. 4 million bottles of Cognac were exported in 2017, resulting in a turnover of €3.15 billion.
  3. Cognac is marketed to over 156 countries;
  4. Cognac’s 10 main markets include: USA, China, Singapore, UK, Germany, France, Latvia, Hong Kong, Holland and South Africa;
  5. Cognac exports have continued to grow in 2017 (three consecutive years);
  6. In terms of style, VS Cognac accounted for half of the Cognac shipments, with volume growth of 8.6%.

BNIC:  http://www.bnic.fr/cognac/_en/intro.aspx    

Harrods sets new standards for drinks retailing

Harrods new wine and spirits shop is part of a multi-million pound investment in food and drinks retailing at the London department store

The shop can be found within the basement of Harrods that forms part of a wider overhaul of the department store’s food and drink offering dubbed ‘The Taste Revolution’.

Designer Martin Brudnizki has created the space to be inspired by the Art Deco opulence captured in The Great Gatsby to be elegant and glamorous.

Brudnizki – who was responsible for the look of famous restaurants such as The Ivy and Sexy Fish.

With marble flooring and limed oak shelving, the look and feel of the new area was carefully done to create something “quite homely and accessible”, as well as a space that “talked of the history of Harrods; talked of an iconic British brand”, said Gerard, noting that wine and spirits was the second department ever created in the life of the store, following its origins as a tea house.

While the materials give an impression of opulence, the scale of the new shop, which covers around 8,000 sq ft, is accentuated by its layout over a long, low-ceilinged space, featuring a series of interconnected rooms, allowing one to look through the store from one end to the other, with features that lead the eye into the distance.

Putting aside the overall impact, it’s the detailing of the drinks shop that really impresses. Chilled, glass-fronted cabinets called ‘Hero Shelves’ contain the finest wines in the range, while all the lighting is screened in such as way to prevent the emission of damaging heat or ultraviolet rays.

Within these cabinets are constantly circulating flows of air to keep the wines at the perfect temperature and humidity, and there’s even a whole room of these transparent containers for magnums and even bigger bottle sizes.

“We have always had a really good range of large formats, but before, they weren’t displayed with authority,” said Gerard.

Bespoke cradles are also used to hold display bottles at an angle of 27 degrees, which, Gerard told db, is the optimum slant for visual effect that still allows the wine to remain in contact with the cork – which is of course necessary to keep the stopper wet.

Then there’s the overall temperature of the space, which is kept at a constant 18.5 degrees Celsius, in contrast to the old drinks shop, which was at 20 degrees C like the rest of the department store (although this former area did contain at ‘fine wine vault’ chilled to 17 degrees C).

Considering the new shop, like its predecessor, is housed in the lower ground floor of Harrods, why was the decision taken to move it to a different part of the same level?

Gerard explains. “With our old location we were effectively landlocked, whereas now there are 12 different ways of approaching the shop, so we are much more accessible, and there are five separate openings leading into the area.”

But the other main reason to move and create a completely new drinks shop within the department store is “to revolutionise the concept of fine wine retailing,” according to Gerard.

Aroma tables guide shoppers through the flavours of each grape

Continuing, he said, “Often the experience of buying fine wine is too high-brow and intimidating, so you don’t attract the aspiring amateurs…. We wanted to create an environment that would deliver the exclusive service of Harrods to everyone.”

Helping Harrods in this endeavour is the educational element within the new store.

Throughout the space are ‘aroma tables’ featuring trumpet-like devices that, with the squeeze of a rubber bulb, like an old-fashioned perfume sprayer, delivers the trademark smells of key noble grape varieties, from Chardonnay to Syrah and Pinot Noir.

The shop also includes two private tasting areas, one devoted to delivering wine education in partnership with the WSET, and the other acting as a consulting area for clients looking for specialist advice.

There is also a spirits room where, unusually, the labels are arranged by style, and this leads into a special area devoted entirely to the retailing of Louis XIII Cognac by Rémy Martin.

Beyond this is one of the most notable new developments for London as a whole, and that is the creation of a walk-in humidor and ‘cigar sampling’ room.

While the former allows customers to store cigars in special lockers that can be rented for £3000 per year, the latter is the first space in the UK to use a special smoke-filtering system to ensure you don’t step out of this basement space smelling of tobacco.

Developed in Switzerland, the Airkel air-filtration system ensures the sampling area is subject to a constant flow of air that strips the room from any smoke, but also your clothes – effectively washing everything free from the aroma-giving particles.

Also, one can consume any drink bought in the wine and spirits to complement your cigar, and there’s no extra ‘corkage’ charge.

Furthermore, all wines bought in the shop can be drunk in any of Harrods restaurants for £30.

So, what about the wine range in the new space? Gerard told db that it runs to 1,400 different lines, augmented by a further 600 spirits. While the wine range isn’t significantly larger than it was in the old shop, he has made a lot of changes, and says there are as many as 400 new lines, and, in terms of price, the current range goes from £9 to £28,000 a bottle.

“We are now direct to source, because we want to always offer perfect provenance… the prevalence of forgery and fakes out there is scary, and Harrods has to have the stamp of authenticity,” he remarked, adding, “But it’s not just about forgery, but getting the wines to the customers in the right condition.”

“There is a lot happening at Harrods, and we are going through our biggest development in the 180-year history of Harrods, which we are calling ‘the taste revolution’. And we are doing this because the food and wine business is at the heart of this business.”

The most expensive single bottle of wine in the new shop is a Riesling! Hailing directly from the cellars of Egon Muller – a Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) from the producer’s famous Scharzofberger vineyard in Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region.

Source: Drinks Business UK

Cognac XO classification to rise to 10 years

 

 

The BNIC (BNIC Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) has recently announced that the classification for XO Cognac is set to change on April 1, 2018.

What does this mean?

This means that the youngest eau-de-vie included in a blended Cognac labelled XO* must be aged in barrels for at least 10 years, instead of the 6 years previously required.

 

A statement from BNIC recently explained that: “The new measure aims align the regulation and the market reality, and also to extend the quality positioning of XO (XO covering ‘Out of Age’, ‘Extra’, ‘Ancestral’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Imperial’ designations as well).”

The change was first raised back in 2011 and the interim has been to allow brands to adapt to the change, although the BNIC also noted that many were already using 10-year-old eaux-de-vie for their XOs.

If a producer has not sold through its stocks of younger XO, any spirits classified as XO bottled by 31 March (though not yet shipped) that contain spirit of six, seven, eight or nine years will be allowed to be sold until March 31, 2019. Producers wishing to take advantage of this however will have to make a declaration to the BNIC.

The designation of ‘Napoleon’ Cognac will remain unchanged with the minimum required age of the spirit used being six years.

 

 

Terroir and Origin Are the Heart of Cognac’s New Visual Identity

The words “Cognac France” in a timelessly elegant font, are written over a rich, earth-tone image in the exact shape of the Cognac region; these are the essential elements of the Cognac appellation’s new visual identity. This logo reminds us that this inimitable and world-famous beverage is a product of one, and only one, place. Unveiled worldwide on November 14, the new visual identity will be used in all markets and on all communication materials of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the association that represents the interests of all the people who grow, distill and export Cognac, and protects the integrity of their product worldwide.

Following the creation of a brand DNA in collaboration with French communications agency Bayadères, the Cognac growers and shippers selected Paris and New York City design studio Be-Poles to create their custom visuals. Vincent Chappe, President of the BNIC’s communications committee, says:

“We have chosen an identity that is inspiring, like Cognac itself. The image of the region is both brilliant and down-to-earth at the same time. Tis new visual identity lets us tell consumers the wonderful story of this place and its people, who together, create the spirit in which we have such pride: cognac.”

An Inspiring Palette: Earth, Copper, Light Spanning the Charente, Charente-Maritime and parts of the Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres départements in southwestern France, the Cognac production area was officially delimited in 1909. Bordered by the ocean and traversed by the Charente River, Cognac’s open plains and rolling hills contains six Crus, characterized by clay and limestone soil. Clémentine Larroumet, director of Be-Poles Design Studio, drew inspiration from Cognac’s singular landscape and light. “I was also inspired by the traditions and craftsmanship of the people who create Cognac, by their vines and the tools of their trade, especially the copper stills.”

The studio took into account the high-end positioning that Cognac’s producers have established and translated their desire to place their terroir–a defining aspect of Cognac– and know-how at the heart of their identity. The choice of Garamond font for the words Cognac and France is a case in point: it was created by the famous typographer Claude Garamont in the sixteenth century, the same period in which distillation of Charente wine was begun for easy transportation to northern Europe.

“It will reinforce cognac’s image as product of guaranteed provenance and authenticity, and highlight its distinguished place in France’s age-old traditions of winemaking and gastronomy.”

A Worldwide Reach

Cognac is exported to 160 countries, representing 98% of the world’s markets. The new identity targets all market sectors but with an emphasis on influencers in the trade and consumer channels. According to Claire Caillaud, BNIC Communications Director, “It will reinforce cognac’s image as product of guaranteed provenance and authenticity, and highlight its distinguished place in France’s age-old traditions of winemaking and gastronomy.” Authenticity, terroir and a sense of place are what today’s consumers seeks, and the new identity aims to address those key messages for the long-term.

About Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac

The BNIC, Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, represents, develops and protects the Cognac Appellation of Controlled Origin in France and in the world. This appellation guarantees an exceptional quality eau-de-vie in the 160 countries where cognac is available. The BNIC is composed of an equal number of growers and merchants and serves as the appellation’s consultation and decision-making platform for more than 4,500 winegrowers and winemakers, 110 distillers, and 270 merchants. The BNIC acts on behalf of both the cognac producers and consumers, with a goal of responsibility communicating about all aspects of the appellation.

Source: The BNIC, Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac