Cognac and brandy brands to watch in 2018
As Cognac and brandy start to rebound amid ongoing turbulence, we predict which brands are set to shake up the sector in the next 12 months.
At the start of this year, it was confirmed that Cognac volume and value exports had rebounded to pre-crisis levels – that is, to sales recorded before the category’s slowdown caused by China’s austerity measures.
According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), volumes increased by 10.2% to 190.2 million bottles and 15.2% in value to €3bn (US$3.5bn) between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017. The US retained its position as the largest Cognac market, with 78.7m bottles shipped to the country in the 12month period.
A “revived interest” in Cognac from Russia and the Baltics, where shipments increased by a massive 73.2%, spearheaded Europe’s return to growth. The previously beleaguered Chinese market steered growth of the Far East, which saw an overall volume increase of 10.6% and value increase of 19.4%. “Russia has made a good comeback after a few quiet years now that both its political and economic situations are more stable,” says Pierre Naud, of France’s Naud family of master distillers. “There is also a clear revival in some of the more traditional markets such as Germany.”
He continues: “We must admit that the Cognac category is doing well, mainly driven by the big players. Seeing consumers and mixologists seek high-level quality products, crafted with tradition and savoir-faire, we easily believe in the pursuit of success for Cognac.”
Courvoisier, meanwhile, has spied a growing opportunity in the travel retail market to recruit Scotch drinkers. “In travel retail, we have seen single malts become increasingly popular, and Courvoisier is determined to innovate in the same way by championing the category and telling a different story beyond its core range, while demonstrating its rich heritage and expertise,” says Fernando De Vicente Meiras, senior global travel retail marketing manager at brand owner Beam Suntory.
The brand is attempting to spice up the category by moving into secondary-cask finishing. The launch of Courvoisier Sherry Cask Finish this year marked the first time a major Cognac house had released a cask-finished expression.
Innovation at the younger end of the category also ramped up, but it was the XO expressions that experienced the greatest sales gains in 2016/17, with volumes up by 24.2% thanks to the recovery in the Far East. Volumes for VS and VSOP increased by 9.6% and 7.4% respectively.
Looking forward, the Cognac industry is aiming to “reinforce” its image as a “product with a guaranteed origin and authenticity” by launching a new appellation identity. The new identity is rolling out across all communication for the BNIC. Brandy, meanwhile, is flexing some innovation muscle with cask finishing. But along with the Italian spirits renaissance, there is one sub-category that is particularly trendy at the moment: grappa. Sandro Bottega, of the eponymous wine and grappa producer in Veneto, commented earlier this year: “Today’s grappa is a genuine product, softer and less alcoholic than in the past.”
Click through the following pages to see which Cognac and brandy brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.
In September, Beam Suntory-owned Courvoisier celebrated the “magic of maturing” with the launch of the first expression in its range of cask-finished Cognacs. As Courvoisier continues to invest in an experimental wood programme, more innovations could debut in 2018.
As a private company, LVMH keeps sales figures pretty close to its chest. However, when announcing the opening of a €100m (US$118m) bottling and logistics plant for Hennessy Cognac, the group revealed that its flagship brand is on track to record sales of 8m cases in 2018. A continued sales push will target this milestone.
In 2017, Pernod Ricard completed the sale of its Domecq portfolio of brandies to producer Bodegas Las Copas, a 50/50 joint-venture held by Grupo Emperador Spain and González Byass. Is the brand poised for a renewed push in 2018?