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  • Pandemic Hospitality Update Winter 2021

    hospitalityNearly 300,000 jobs in the UK hospitality sector were lost between February and November last year.  Over £53 billion was also lost in year-on-year revenue between April and September.  The lack of Christmas trading will be an additional huge loss.

    According to the IWSR, global sales of alcohol fell by 8% in 2020 whilst the UK Off trade alcohol sales grew by over 16%.

    The American Beverages Licensees group has warned that the US pandemic funding bill has failed to provide sufficient support to save their bars and restaurants.  Over 909,000 jobs in the sector have already been lost and 110,000 restaurants closed.

    An All Party Parliamentary Group has been formed to address the problems faced by the UK night-time economy which is facing collapse.  MPs have voted in favour of creating a Minister for Hospitality following the submission of a petition with over 200,000 signatures.  A £1,000 grant has been agreed for all drinks led venues that have been forced to close.

    UK based charity The Drinks Trust has provided £1.2m this year in support of industry workers.  They have also launched an online networking platform called the Drinks Community for members of the trade to connect and share information.

    The World Spirits Report expects the trade to recover by the end of 2022 and then we will see something akin to the ‘Roaring 20s’ when hedonistic revelling followed the end of the Spanish flu pandemic.  UK Freixenet Copestick has shown its confidence in the future of the industry by purchasing On Trade wine merchant Jascots.

    Our Autumn industry update can be read here.

  • The Charente Scene - Winter 2021

    Winter 2021Apart from the recent flooding of the Charente, there is very little news from the Cognac region this winter 2021 as France went into a second national lockdown from October to December 2020.  It had hoped to reopen cinemas, museums and theatres in January, followed by bars, restaurants, gyms and cafés later in the month but now, this will not be possible until mid-February at the earliest.  A partial closure of the border with the UK will remain in place until further notice with second-home owners, tourists and those visiting family all barred.  The country remains under an 8pm - 6am curfew but an earlier 6pm to 6am curfew - already in place in parts of Eastern France (see map) - is set to be extended to other areas.  Although France is doing better than some of its neighbours, the number of Covid patients remains high.
    Other news can be found elsewhere on our Blog.

  • Armagnac Crus

    armagnac crusArmagnac is produced in the south west of France in the departments of Gers and Landes in the region known as Gascony. The region has very little industry and the landscape is relatively flat, very green and the people are friendly, living an altogether quieter life than those in Cognac to the north. Indeed, most of the land is given over to agriculture and perhaps well described by Nick Faith, the famous writer on French Brandies, as the land of Fois Gras.  An ideal base for armagnac crus.

    The climate is perhaps a little warmer than in Cognac but still enjoys the temperate conditions so necessary for growing grapes. These are made into wine and then distilled into the oldest spirit in the world, armagnac. It was perhaps made famous by the French musketeer d’Artagnan and immortalised by Alexandre Dunas.

    There are three armagnac crus, the smallest is Bas Armagnac. However, whilst it is the smallest in land mass, it is the largest armagnac production region making around 57% of all the armagnac produced. The department is in the north west of the region, closest to the Atlantic where, millions of years ago, the sea washed in sandy and silty soil which now produces some of the finest armagnacs. These fine spirits are fruity, light and delicate and regarded as the best armagnacs in the region. The main town in the Bas department is Eauze, a small market town where the BNIA can be found.

    To the East of Bas is the second cru of armagnac known as Ténarèze. The department is slightly bigger than Bas and in the centre lies the town of Condom with its beautiful buildings and Armagnac museum. The cru comprises about 40% of all the armagnac vineyards and the armagnacs produced here tend to develop much slower than those in Bas. The clay and limestone soil produces rich and fruity spirits which are often used whilst relatively young to make generic blends.

    The largest cru is Haut Armagnac. It surrounds Ténarèze on three sides, north, east and south and the main town is Auch which is in the centre of the region. The cru is often referred to as white armagnac as the soil contains an abundance of limestone. The viticulture was developed here in the 19th century to meet the high market demand but has since dwindled away to only a few producers who make largely uninteresting armagnacs.

  • The Spirits Business - The Big Interview with David Baker

    David Baker

    David Baker, MD of Brandyclassics and driving force behind the Hermitage Cognac brand, was  featured in a long interview piece with The Spirit Business. Published in the October 2020 edition, it was a wide ranging discussion about Cognac, the birth of the Hermitage Cognac brand and the Cognac Industry.

    A shortened version of the interview can be found on the Spirit Business website, or you can download the entire interview as a PDF.

  • Tariffs

    TariffsWe waited with bated breath as the final details of the UK’s Brexit deal were agreed in December and were pleased to learn that there will be no tariffs due on the importation of French brandies to the UK from 1 January 2021.  Adjustments will need to be made by all, to embed the paperwork now required, but that’s to be expected with such an upheaval.  In the US however, the situation is not so rosy as although it is hoped that the tariff on scotch whisky will be lifted, an EU retaliatory 25% tariff has been placed on imports of cognac and brandy from 12 January 2021.

  • Happy New Year 2021

    2021It is not the New Year 2021 many of us had hoped for but let's hope there are improvements later in the year.  We would like to thank all of our customers for their business to date and hope they stay safe and well during the forthcoming months.

    Brexit brought many challenges at the end of last year.  We have found that there are now some shortages in supply which, along with a poor exchange rate, means that reluctantly, we will have to increase our prices from 1 February.

    So .... if you have gifts to buy, or just feel the need to treat yourself, don't hang about, the New Year is well and truly upon us!

  • The 'Digestif' - After Dinner Drink

    DigestifThe digestif is an alcoholic drink served after dinner to aid digestion. So, one may ask, does it? Well yes it does. I guess that you would expect me to say this as luxury cognac producer, but I can support that view.  I have on occasions, taken a small cognac after a meal and having done so, I experienced greater well-being than when no such digestif was available.

    Indeed, I recall that my Grandmother, who was a lady in waiting for a rich socialite who lived in my hometown of Chichester, always enjoyed a cognac after a meal. Perhaps it was because of a type of social correctness or maybe because the ladies and gentlemen around the table (this would have been in the 1920s and 1930s) really did find that it helped relieve the effects of the generous portions served at that time.

    There is also a certain etiquette to serving a cognac. It is, after all, the top dog of the digestif arena, best known for its high alcoholic content, a quality which promotes the production of enzymes, said to help digestion. We have more recently been bombarded with all sorts of alternative digestifs; whisky, whiskey, liqueurs, rum and even white spirits have been suggested by drink entrepreneurs as suitable ways to settle ones stomach after a heavy meal. But for me, when one drinks wine all evening, continuing with the honest grape, albeit reduced from wine by a factor of ten and aged in an oak cask for decades, cognac is the perfect and most deserving way to end the evening.

    Last night I had a small glass of a very old single estate cognac and awoke in the knowledge that I had enjoyed a unique experience.  Every cognac house crafts their cognacs according to their family traditions and skills, and every single estate cognac is different. When I went to bed I dreamed about the aromas and taste and the pleasure the cognac had given me and I felt great the next day. Yes, it is the perfect digestif.

    Happy Christmas.

  • The Charente Scene - Autumn 2020

    Autumn 2020Once again at this time of the year we turn our attention to the harvest, the quality and size of this year’s crop. During a visit to the Charente a couple of months ago, in Autumn 2020, I was able to see the vineyards for myself and make a judgement as to the size of the potential harvest.  Even then it was apparent that it was going to be big, providing the rain came at the right time. Well, the rain did come, not quite at the right time but enough to produce a substantial harvest.  Although we do not have the final quantity yet, figures of around one million hectolitres of pure alcohol are being talked about. That is around 365 million bottles of cognac at 40%!  Not only are we expecting to get record quantities of grapes harvested, it is also said that both the acidity and sugar levels are very good.  Apparently, many of the grapes are bigger than we have seen before. The official figures should be released at the beginning of next month, so we wait and see. Let us just hope that there is enough room to store all the new eaux de vie.        DB

  • Christmas 2020 Deliveries

    ChristmasFor Christmas deliveries to addresses in the UK please ensure your orders are with us by 10 am on Tuesday 22nd December 2020.

    Generally UK orders placed before 12 noon will be delivered the following working day but please be aware that although we are able to process orders within 1 working day, Parcelforce are not always able to meet their normal delivery times at present.

    Our deliveries to America are also taking longer than usual due to a shortage of flights so all orders to the rest of the world should be placed as soon as possible please.  More information can be found in our Terms and Conditions.

  • First Harvest of New Vine Varieties

    vinesThe Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) is the organisation whose role is to promote, protect and develop the Cognac Geographic Indication and its culture.  In September their technical arm, Station Viticole, reported that one of their research programmes had seen new varieties of vines, resistant to mildew and powdery mildew, harvested in the region.  Six experimental plots are the result of 20 years of collective research work in partnership with the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE), the French Institute of Vine and Wine (IFV), and the main producers in the cognac industry.  The newly harvested grapes will now be vinified and the wines distilled to help enable a better understanding of the cultural characteristics of these new varieties as well as the oenological qualities of the grapes and the profile of the eaux-de-vie obtained. The Cognac industry has been working for many years to preserve its terroir and natural resources.  This long-term research programme, developing new vine varieties, is just part of the plan and in the long term should (1) reduce, by up to 90%, the phytosanitary treatments against mildew and powdery mildew, the main diseases affecting vines (2) produce distillation wines corresponding to the qualitative requirements of cognac production and (3) anticipate the effects of climate change.

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