Cognac: The Undisputed Star of French Spirits

Cognac: The Undisputed Star of French Spirits

Cognac is enjoyed around the world, and accounts for 73% of the total value of French liquor exports.

Cognac, which is produced in the Charentes region, is made from an assemblage of twice-distilled white wines. The wine spirit that is obtained from them is placed in new oak barrels to be aged for at least two years. During that period, the alcohol level drops to the 40% (90 proof) that is mandatory in the Cognac regulations.  

Produced since the 17th century, Cognac remains the undisputed star of French spirits to this day. All by itself, it accounts for 73% of the total value of French liquor exports – some ten times more than vodka – and nearly 23% of the total value of French wine and spirits exports.

A cosmopolitan drink, Cognac is much appreciated beyond France’s borders: 97.9% of all cognac is consumed abroad. Enjoyed in nearly 150 countries, it adapts to local culture. Mixed into cocktails in the U.S.A., in n the U.K. and even in France, in China, it is not uncommon to quaff it with meals (food pairing).  

” In the year 2020 alone, 187,1 million bottles were exported for a sum of €2.7 billion. The main importing countries are the U.S.A. (€1.322 million for 2020), China (€399 million), Singapore (€348 million) and the United Kingdom (€69 million).”

Although those figures are impressive, they still represent a clear drop (-22% revenue) compared to 2019 because of bar and restaurant closings due to the health crisis, as the National Inter-Professional Cognac Bureau (BNIC) explains.

Nonetheless, signs of recovery began to appear in the last quarter (october, november, december 2020 vs october, november, december 2019), with shipments rising 19 % in a year. This was particularly true in the U.S.A. – where exports rose 43% by volume – and in China and Singapore as well.

Overall, the Cognac sector is maintaining its growth dynamic and has encouraging perspectives. Their goals for 2035 are to ship 300 million bottles a year and to create 15,000 more jobs. The sector currently counts nearly 4,300 wine-growers and nearly 280 trading houses, for a total of 60 000 indirect jobs.

Did you know?

  • Once it is bottled, Cognac keeps its age, because unlike wine, the alcohol stops evolving in glass.
  • Cognac’s three age categories:
    *** or V.S. (Very Special) Cognac starts at two-and-a-half years of age
    VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) or Reserve Cognac must be 4 years old minimum
    XO (Extra Old) or Napoleon Cognac must be 10 years old minimum

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