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The Cognac Process – Part 6. Revolution – what revolution?

In 1789 the locals around Cognac were preoccupied, not with the matters in Paris with the ancien régime but with the frost of the previous winter.  It would have reduced the townspeople to near starvation had it not been for the charitable intervention of some of the wealthier local merchants, notably M Martell. As relative outsiders to the French feudal ways, the Cognaçais were largely unaffected by the Revolution.  During the Napoleonic period they were hurt only by occasional attempts to interfere with trade with Britain which had become their best market.  As a result, Martell and Hennessy were able to gain supremacy, a position they have never subsequently lost.  The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 was a great relief to the region. The town was able to grow beyond its medieval walls for the first time and new rich merchants such as Otard and Dupuy built large houses in the woods around the new town. Even so, Martell and Hennessy retained their pre-eminence and it was they who crucially set the price at which the growers would sell their brandies to the merchants; a pattern that has been continued by the big houses to this day.