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The Charente Scene – Winter 2016

Very much as expected, the grape harvest in 2015 is producing one of the best and biggest quantities of distilled spirit ever.  It looks like the total will be well over 800,000hl, indicating a record year.  Despite this, many distillers are fearful of a new demand on cognac from export markets, especially the USA where a record 4.3 million cases (51.6 million bottles) were sold last year. The US market is predominantly led by Hennessy whose share is 67%, the majority of which is of VS quality.  It has been made popular by influential rappers such as Nas and Jay-Z and the trend seems to be increasing.  Many of the distillers who sell their cognacs to Hennessy believe that surges in demand, such as that from China a few years ago, will lead to their instability; the current large production requirement may not be needed in 2 -3 years’ time.  In contrast, many of the Hermitage vintages have been aged for decades and are now in extremely short supply.  Take a look at the Hermitage 1903 for example, only a couple of bottles remain.

The Charente Scene – Autumn 2015

Strange, in our last edition we commented how attitudes had changed in the Charente vineyards as the wet and cold weather had changed to warm and dry.  We went from doom and gloom to great optimism and indeed the current news on the harvest is that it will beat last year’s whopping 770,000 hl pure alcohol.  Many are predicting that it will exceed 800,000 hectolitres of pure alcohol or 112 million bottles at 40%.  So far so good but there is a problem.  It seems that the markets, especially those in the Far East and Russia, have not increased and some have dropped in their purchases of cognac.  Now we have more than we can sell and the growers are worried that the big houses will not buy their cognacs.  Guess what, its doom and gloom again over there!

Read more cognac industry news on our blog.