Cognac exports reach record high

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac has released 2016 export data. Pic:iStock/Shaiith
The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac has released 2016 export data. Pic:iStock/Shaiith

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Cognac exports rose in 2016 to reach record levels in both value and volume, according to figures from the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC).  The US continues to be the largest market for Cognac exports.

Total exports increased 6% in volume and 6.8% in value. In total, 179.1m bottles were exported, with a turnover of €2.8bn. More than 619,000 hl of pure alcohol was sent from Cognac houses in 2016.  

The 2016 figures follow on from a good year in 2015: and the Cognac industry now accounts for more than 20% of French wine and spirit exports.

Increase in exports to US; decrease to Europe

Rémy Cointreau today reported 'excellent performance' for its Cognac The House of Rémy Martin,​ with organic growth of 11.2% (9 months to Dec 2016).

"Performance was underpinned by strong momentum in the Americas, a step-up in private consumption growth in Greater China & Travel Retail, and anticipated shipments in Q3 for Chinese New Year celebrations. Sales have returned to robust growth in Russia since the start of the financial year,"​ reports Rémy Cointreau.

In 2016 there was a ‘steady increase’ in shipments to the US, which has been Cognac’s largest market for 25 years, with 74.1m bottles shipped.

Across the NAFTA area (US, Canada, Mexico), volumes rose 14.2% and value was up 14.3%, with a total of 77.3m bottles shipped.

The US has also contributed to a steady rise in VS (very special) quality volumes. Worldwide, VS volumes were up 9.6% and value was up 13%: now accounting for half of total Cognac exports.

A difficult economic climate in Europe meant exports to countries in this region were down 1.2% in volume and 1% in value. Shipments totaled 39.4m bottles.

Exports to the Far East remained stable: volumes were up 1% to 51.1m bottles and value was up 3%.

The BNIC says that a stabilizing Chinese market is an important element in this region.

Other markets, such as Africa and the Caribbean, make up 6.3% of global exports with 11.3m bottles. In 2016, these markets were up 5.4% in volume and 5.1% in value.

cognac infographic
VS (very special) quality volumes rose 9.6 % and value rose 13.0 %, with VS now representing half of all Cognac exports. VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) exports have remained stable in 2016, with volumes up 0.4 % and value up 0.3 %. Old quality Cognac exports have experienced a revival, with an 11.7 % increase in volumes and 8.3 % increase in value.

Challenging weather conditions

Cognac, named after the French town of the same name, is protected by a geographical indicator.

“Despite challenging weather conditions such as frost, hail and drought, production volumes remain satisfactory at 101.94 hl vol/ha,”​ said the BNIC. This compares to 126 hl vol/ha for the harvest before.

“This amounts to a yield of 10.37 hl of pure alcohol/ha and a harvest distillation level that should attain 750,000 hl of pure alcohol.

“The annual Cognac harvest yield for 2016 is 11.02 hl of pure alcohol per hectare.

“The climate reserve, a regulation established in 2008 by the BNIC that allows producers to hold back a reserve of pure alcohol in case of future poor harvests, should mitigate a potential harvest shortfall among those winegrowers who will not reach regulatory annual yields this year. It is worth noting that 65% of winegrowers now have access to climate reserve stocks."

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