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News

  • Hermitage Cognacs New Office Manager - John Walley

    office managerWe are very pleased to introduce our new Office Manager, John Walley.  After a full Army career and a spell working in the Far East, he has chosen to settle in Wiltshire and join our team.  A keen sportsman, John is already enjoying the wonderful golf courses and premiership rugby this area has to offer.  Pictured on his introductory tour of the Charente, John is inspecting this summer’s fantastic grape harvest, before meeting many of our French friends and colleagues.

     

     

  • The New Active-ist Consumer Is Here

    consumerWilliam Grant & Son’s latest Market Report has identified a change in customer behaviour.  The new ‘Active-ist Consumer’ is described as ‘purposeful, connected and empowered’.  According to the Report there is a new breed of digitally-sophisticated, socially-conscious, and sustainability-expectant people who use their collective consumer power to generate change at scale and with purpose and at an increasingly fast pace.  Digital sophistication allows consumers to source their own news, leading to demands for brand transparency and the desire for brands to engage with ethical issues.  Such behaviour was clearly visible following the airing of Planet Earth 2 in 2016 when social media was flooded with commentary on the horror of disposable plastic.  The sheer number of outraged viewers ensured the issue was recognised by the drinks industry amongst others.  As a direct consequence, we are now seeing widespread withdrawal of plastic drinking straws.  The Report also announced that people are spending more on drinking less.  Consumers are choosing their outings on the quality and range of food and drink on offer.  We have been familiar with this trend for some time as our premium brandies continue to increase in popularity.

  • Cognac Exports Continue To Rise

    cognac exportsFor the fourth consecutive year cognac exports are up, according to recent figures published by the BNIC.  Volume sales were up by 8.2% (205 million bottles were shipped) and this equated to an increase of 5.4% by value (€3.2bn).  The largest market continues to be the US where demand still increases annually.  Exceptional increases in demand have been seen in the Far East with China leading the way.  “These strong results confirm the lasting appetite of the Chinese for Cognac, even as the market is still stabilising,” noted the BNIC President.  Shipments to the UK remaining stable at 10.8 billion, despite the uncertainties of Brexit, were positive and we remain the fourth largest importer worldwide.  A delighted BNIC Vice-president concluded that “Cognac wine growers and traders are confident in their future prospects and continue today to fully invest in the development of the appellation, their sector and the quality of their products”.

  • Nick Faith 1933 - 2018

    Nick Faith VisitIt would be difficult for me to write another Technical Topic without mentioning Nick Faith who very sadly passed away on 26 September 2018. Nick was a friend whom I have known for more than 25 years. But he was more than that, He was a giant in the cognac industry.

    As a financial journalist Nick wrote regularly in the Financial Times and the Economist. He also wrote many books on drink.  His first, called The Winemasters, was published in 1978 and won the André Simon Award.   Another, and one of his finest was a rather grand full-sized book with many illustrations but actually, he was best known for his book simply called Cognac.  It was  first published in 2004 (the last edition was published in 2013) and is regarded by many as the Standard in the industry.  Here at Hermitage, we still use it occasionally for reference.  In 1996 he founded the International Spirits Challenge and in 2010 he was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Bureau National Interprofessional de Cognac (BNIC), the ruling body of Cognac.  As a fellow traveller to the Cognac region, Nick loved to visit us here at Hermitage Cognacs and talk about the industry, tasting our cognacs and finishing up with lunch and a beer before I took him back to Chippenham to return on the train, another of his loves.

    Nick Faith will be sorely missed, not just as a great authority on cognacs but as an inspiration to the industry, he was one of the Cognac Greats.

  • IWSC 2018 Gold Outstanding Medal Winners

    IWSC 2018Another fantastic result for the Hermitage stable as three of our newest additions are awarded prestigious medals at this year's International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC 2018).  GOLD OUTSTANDING Medals were received by our latest vintages:

     

    Hermitage 1948 Grande Champagne Cognac.  Judges comments: "On the palate this cognac is extremely rich and concentrated.  Perfectly balanced."

    Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac.  Judges comments: "Absolutely superb!  Do not wait to drink this."

     

    All three of our winners are from the top cru as a GOLD Medal was also awarded to the Hermitage 30 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac.  Judges comments: "Powerful yet elegant on the palate.  Very complex, very long finish."

  • Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac

    1944 GC CognacWe are really excited about the latest Hermitage 1944 Cognac to make it onto our shelves.

     

    Distilled almost 75 years ago and aged for more than half a century, the Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac is truly wonderful.  It has a rich complexity of aromas and flavours which last for ages on the palate and they are all wrapped up in a rich rancio .... what more could you wish for?

     

    This really is a little bit of cognac heaven.

  • Put A Cork In It!

    We tend to take the humble wine cork for granted but it is, in many cases, the critical factor in preserving our wines and spirits.  It protects them from the air outside their glass containers and preserves the qualities of the valuable nectars which are stored within. Many people will argue that synthetic or metal screw top closures are more effective and in the cheaper ranges, particularly of wines, they probably are.  Connoisseurs, however, still believe that natural cork has an important role to play.

    cork oak tree

    Cork is the bark of the Quercus suber or “cork oak” tree.  A medium-sized, evergreen oak that covers millions of hectares in Spain, Portugal and North Africa.  Unlike the frenzied yearly cycle of the wine industry, the evergreen oaks move like sloths, slowly expanding and growing the bark, known as orange bark. The cork oaks are first stripped of their bark 20 years after they are planted.  They are then shaved of their bark every 9 years after that for up to 200 years. The date of the last harvest is marked on each tree. The first layer is known as “virgin” cork and is used to make articles of home decoration and granulated cork for insulation. Only when the third layer is removed can it be used for making cork stoppers.

    corks

     

    On a cellular level, cork looks like a honeycomb of air pockets. These pockets make cork both watertight and fire resistant which is why it works so well to age wine.  Its molecular structure makes watertight seals easily but also lets tiny bits of air move in or out allowing the flavour and aroma to evolve and become more complex over time. This evolution can take many years but beware, whilst water molecules pass quite slowly through cork, spirit molecules are much smaller and pass through more quickly.  It is for this reason that many older cognacs always have a wax seal over the cork.  Natural ageing of cognacs must be in sealed containers as the gradual loss of alcohol can, over many decades, cause the spirit to degrade to such an extent that it can become completely undrinkable.

     

    The microcellular structure of cork enables it to retain its flexibility and elasticity so always remember to put the cork back in the bottle after use.  Also, never let the contents of your spirits bottle come into contact with the cork since this will degrade its structure more rapidly.

  • Armagnac XO Definition Changed

    Armagnac XOThe Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac (BNIA) has increased the minimum age requirement for Armagnac XO from 6 to 10 years, in line with a recent change to the cognac definition (see previous news story).  The regulatory body said that it hopes the changes will help to raise the “value of the appellation” and emphasise the “real differences” between its classifications.  The minimum age of an armagnac (and cognac) is now as follows:

    VS                                                                3+ years

    VSOP                                                          4+ years

    Napoleon                                                  6+ years

    XO                                                              10+ years

  • Trellising Vines in Armagnac

    Trellising in ArmagnacJust like in Cognac, the Armagnac region suffered from the severe spring weather with the heaviest rainfalls recorded since 1952!  Thankfully the barometer has now stabilised and trellising has begun.  This essential activity supports the vegetation ensuring good aeration of the grapes and minimal shoot damage by wind.  Ripening is also optimised, as leaf exposure to the sun improves and thus, encourages photosynthesis.  Of great ecological importance is the efficiency of phytosanitary treatment - the arrangement of the leaves on trellised plants helps this to improve. Finally, trellising also facilitates passage between the vines reducing time spent on viniculture and therefore crop costs. The recent good, stable, summer weather has ensured that this year, the budding and general well-being of the vines are exceptional.  Very good news for the 2018 armagnac vintage as if the rain had not stopped, the saturated soils may well have asphyxiated the plants.

  • The Cognac Region - Summer 2018

    storm damage in the Cognac RegionThe Cognac Region has once again been hit by severe hailstorms. At the end of May hailstones, some the size of golf balls, were seen in the south of Charente-Maritime, the Borderies, the west of Matha and the Rouillac area. In total, more than 10,000 hectares in the Cognac region were affected.  However, an original estimate that 25% of the total crop was damaged has now been revised to 5-6% maximum.  Although some areas were severely affected at the time, it now appears that the actual damage done is less than was originally anticipated.  Harvest hopes have also been given a fresh boost with the sunny weather that followed the earlier storms, allowing the crops to ripen better than normal.  It is expected that this year’s yield will be at least up to normal levels of 12 hectolitres of pure spirit per hectare. If this does prove to be the case it should help to stabilise cognac prices which have been talked up recently by fears of a small harvest.

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