The Rémy Cointreau Group has announced their acquisition of Maison de Cognac J.R. Brillet which is based at Graves Saint Amant in the Charente. The Brillet Cognac sale includes 50 hectares of vineyards located in Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, the Brillet cognacs and Belle de Brillet, a pear and cognac liqueur. Good to see its ownership remain with a family owned French firm but the big houses often subsume new cognac stocks into huge generic blends where individual flavours are completely lost. It has taken a year for this sale to be agreed and during that time the Remy Cointreau Group’s sales have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 crisis. More specifically, the House of Rémy Martin experienced an organic 7.5% drop in sales during 2019/2020. An interesting time to increase ones cognac production isn’t it?
Cognac expert Ed Bates, speaking at a tasting in London recently, highlighted the stylistic and commercial stranglehold that the big four houses have on the industry (they have 80% of the cognac market). In order to compete, most of the other houses “try to copy Hennessy XO because the world, or Asia, thinks that cognac tastes like Hennessy XO”. They do have another option though, he says, which in the longer term could be more beneficial. Making the individuality of their terroir (which includes factors such as the skill of the distiller, still, casks, cellar etc.) their unique selling point (USP) would set them apart from the competition. As the Chinese market, which thrives on the blended generic labels, slows down the more opportunity unique products will have to gain wider recognition. Ed Bates is convinced that concentrating on quality and what sets your cognac apart is the way ahead as this ensures that the maître de chai is in charge of style not the marketing director. Here at Hermitage Cognacs we couldn’t agree more, we have always been clear about our USP – exceptional cognac from single estates, each with a ‘number on the bottle’ to confirm its provenance.