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  • High Spring Temperatures are drying the grapes, causing problems for Brandy production

    The hot Spring weather has created many problems in the Charente Vineyards. Temperatures of more than 35 degrees have had a severe effect on this year’s grape harvest. The sun has scorched the grapes, drying them and changing them to little more than sultanas.

    Temperatures in the Charente of this magnitude are unusual and can be particularly harmful at this stage of their growth. A 52 year record temperature of 40 degrees was recorded in one vineyard and many producers are severely worried that grape harvests will be drastically reduced as a result of the heat. And as if the heat is not enough, record low rainfalls have also created additional problems with hungry insects and beetles causing additional spraying to prevent infestations.

    One grower suggested that vineyard yields this year could be down by as much as 40% and if that happens, there will be serious shortages of wines for distillation...

  • Did You Know? 19th Century Cognac History

    Continuing from our previous post about early Cognac history, some more historical dates in time about the golden nectar...

    • 1835 Felix Courvoisier and Louis Gallois found Cognac Courvoisier
    • 1849 Martell use their own labels on their bottles for the first time
    • 1854 Cognacs depict 4 different zones of cognac. Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Premier Bois and Deuxième Bois
    • 1856 Hennessy start to label bottles
    • 1858 The House of A E Dor is founded in Jarnac
    • 1865 Hennessy start to use stars to denote cognac quality
    • 1870 The maps of the Charente regions show Fins Bois and Bon Bois for the first time
    • 1872 Phylloxera destroys most of the vines in Cognac
    • 20th Century Phylloxera resistant Ugni Blanc Vines imported from America largely replace Folle Blanche and Colombard.
    • 1909 The six cognac crus are established and are protected by law
    • 1927 Fine Champagne is defined on Remy Martin VSOP bottles
    • 1936 Strict new rules of definition for cognac production introduced
    • 1946 The Bureau National Interprofessionel de Cognac is founded
    • 1993 Cognac region expands to 87,313 hectares
    • 2003 America becomes the biggest cognac importer
  • The Brandy Bottle- Delord 20y.o. Bas Armagnac

    Sometimes in summer we think of more fruity drinks and with the lower distillation range of 52 – 72 degrees there is ample scope to develop the plummy flavours of good armagnac. Delord have a superb range of vintage armagnacs, but like so many armagnac houses they have recognised that these vintages will one day run out. The firm is determined to state ages on their bottles, and we have chosen the 20 year old Bas Armagnac to test.

    One can never be entirely happy with the concept of blending brandies together, as variations can occur that create differences in flavour. But somehow Delord have not only prevented any such variations but have also made a thouroughly pleasant Armagnac with distinctive pruney and roasted walnut flavours. Delord have always been one of our favourites, this is no exception.  Our score 8/10


     

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Louis Royer

    Louis Royer is probably better known now than it has ever been during its long life, as a result of its takeover by the giant Suntory organisation in Japan. The firm was started in 1853 by its founder Louis Royer. He was a chief blender at another cognac house and he decided to establish his own distillery. He was an avid beekeeper and a bee is enshrined in the firm’s coat of arms.

    Louis Royer is said to have chosen the bee as an emblem from the very beginning of his business and is said to represent the values that have always prevailed by the house, that of diligence and an efficient and lively organisation. It is also the regional symbol of craftsmen and their work.

    The family firm has been situated in Jarnac and they have occupied a splendid chateau near the town centre close to the Charente. This is also where the cellars and offices are still located. Five generations of Royer family have run the firm, but since it was taken over in the 1990’s the quality of the cognacs have not improved and their range is now entirely blended. The firm ships over two hundred thousand cases of cognac to many countries as well as more than two hundred and sixty thousand cases of brandy and a further one hundred and thirty thousand cases of vodka and liqueurs. With a turnover of more than 30 million euros and more than eighty employees, cognac has ceased to be a speciality and what was once a great cognac house has now moved into the realms of globalisation. Their young cognacs are mixed with caramel and sugar syrups.

  • Did You Know? Early Brandy History

    Very few of us are aware that French Brandies have a long history, indeed they are some of the oldest distilled spirits. Here are a few facts for your next bar quiz..

    • 1411 First brandy, as we now know it, distilled in Armagnac, mainly for farmers.
    • 1494 Francois 1 is born in Cognac and later allows traders to use the Charente river to ship salt to the ports.
    • 1549 First Brandy appears in Cognac, a merchant from La Rochelle produced four casks of “good cognac”.
    • 1643 Philippe Augier founds first cognac house, Augier Freres. 1678 Cogniack Brandy is mentioned in the London Gazette..
    • 1696 Louis XIV grants Frapin Family high aristocratic status. 1715 Jean Martell arrives in Cognac from Jersey.
    • 1724 Paul-Emilie Remy Martin and his father start Remy Martin. 1725 Isaac Ranson starts a trading house in Cognac.
    • 1762 James Delamain becomes a partner of Ranson Delamain.
    • 1765 James Hennessy from Ireland starts trading Cognac Hennessy
    • 1795 James Hennessy marries Marthe Martell. Otard Dupuy started.
    • 1797 Thomas Hine and Elisabeth Delamain marry
    • 1817 First use of classification VOP-very old pale and VSOP used

    More to follow next month!

  • The Brandy Bottle - Hermitage 43 y.o. Grande Champagne Cognac

    The 43 year old Grande Champagne Cognac by Hermitage is probably going to be of the finest in our history. It is produced from vineyards around Segonzac in the very centre of Grande Champagne. The distillers have four large stills with 123 hectares of vineyards around Segonzac and based in key areas where the very finest conditions exist. The grape variety is all Ugni Blanc. Their main cellars are quite large and are on two levels each containing probably several thousand 350 litre barrels. The walls of the cellars are thick and the lower floor is below ground level allowing good damp conditions for storage. This cognac is exceptional. It has a huge complexity of flavours including, melon, mangosteen, kumquats orange peel, spices and roasted nuts.

    We know of little better, this is a truly great cognac. Our score 9/1t0


     

  • Cognac Vineyard Prices unchanged

    Figures released today by La Fédération Nationale des Safer (SAFER), the national inventory of land transactions and prices which includes vineyards, is indicating that whilst there is little movement in vineyard prices from last year, there are many vineyard owners who would like to sell some or part of their land if it was possible.

    Land in the cognac region is relatively cheap when compared with the land in such regions as St Emillion, where figures as much as 200,000€  are around six times higher than those in Cognac at about 35,000€ a hectare. Perhaps more worrying is the number of vineyard owners seeking to sell their land at a time of cognac shortages across the industry.

    Current demand for cognac is far outstripping the supply and the major houses are supplying more and more younger stock to make up quantities. These mega firms have always in the past protected the producers by buying their cognacs and eau de vie, even when their demand is low - so what is happening? It appears that the big firms are deliberately buying younger cognacs in the main to keep margins acceptable. Many smaller producers do not have agreements with the big houses. With new cognacs becoming harder to obtain, shouldn’t  the big firms be looking to the longer term, supporting growers?

    Brandyclassics' range of Hermitage Single Estate Cognacs are sourced from smaller producers, who are able to supply cognacs of the exceptional quality, age and unique character our customers demand.


  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Ragnaud Sabourin

    Ragnaud Sabourin is the only known producer of cognac who still uses all eight permitted grape varieties. The main grape variety used in Cognac is the Ugni Blanc, which represents about 95% of all grapes used. Colombard and the old pre-phylloxera grape Folle Blanche are the second most used grapes, representing around 4.5% of the cognac mix - so the remaining five varieties are only very rarely known, let alone seen. They are Jurançon, Blanc Ramé, Bouilleaux, Chalosse and the oldest of all the Balzac blanc.

    Many cognac professionals will advise that the grape variety does not make a significant difference to the cognac. That may be true of the highly blended products used for producing VSOP, XO, etc but it is not the case with Ragnaud Sabourin who produce many single estate cognacs with some wonderful characteristics.

    The firm came to prominence around the middle of the last century and it is no coincidence that they share the same name as Raymond Ragnaud, just up the road in Ambleville (the connection ended around the middle of the last century with a considerable level of family acrimony). The firm was started by one Gaston Briand, who was president of the growers association and succeeded by his daughter and son in law, Denise and Marcel Ragnaud and their daughter Annie and son in law Paul Sabourin.

    The estate is more than 50 hectares deep in the heart of Grande Champagne and produces some of the loveliest cognacs - deep floral and fruity aromas with a classic and deep woody style. All the cognacs produced are aged for longer than the minimum periods. The firm claim that there is no blending of crus, just simply a single appellation of ageing that has provided its reputation for their cognacs fine quality. Whatever they say, their cognacs are exceptional in quality and are some of the most complex light cognacs we have tasted.

     

     

  • Brandyclassics enter the Asian Cognac market

    For more than a year we have been discussing the potential trade opportunities in Asia. We were unfortunate last year as we had planned to enter trade through the food and wine exhibition in Singapore. Despite having set up all the display work for the show, we were scuppered at the last moment by a giant ash cloud looming overhead from Iceland and we were able to reach the show until the last day.

    This year we were helped by UKTI who set up a number of key players in the field. Our aspirations were for a single distributor who was able to supply Hermitage Cognacs to Hong Kong and Macau and we were presented with four possible distributors who were already supplying that market with upmarket wines and other spirits.

    The Asian market for cognacs is currently very strong, but we were surprised and highly delighted that all four of the potential distributors have agreed to buy Hermitage Pure Vintage Cognacs and supply them to their customers in the region, with two of them even working over the border into mainland China. We are optimistic that the growth of Hermitage Cognacs into the luxury Chinese markets will further our range of top cognacs to our existing customers.

     

  • Chinese want Hermitage Cognacs now

    We have recently returned from Hong Kong where we have been working closely with UKTI in setting up distribution of Hermitage Pure Vintage Cognacs. Our visit included meetings with four specialist luxury drinks distributors who have now tasted and explored the possibilities of selling Hermitage cognacs to their customers. They are all involved with sales to the luxury sector of the Hong Kong hotels and restaurants markets and their clients are excited at being able to buy non generically labelled cognacs for the first time.

    Brandyclassics expect to be receiving their first orders from Hong Kong within weeks. Many of their clients are already considering the higher priced cognacs and our Hermitage 43 year old, 1975 Grande Champagne and 1900 are already firm favourites.

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