France’s Cognac region will significantly increase its marketing in the U.S. in the near future.
The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) — the entity that promotes, protects and develops the Cognac Geographic Indication and its culture, with the aid of the European Union — has announced Teuwen Communications as its agency of record. This new program will include media and trade relations, events and a “robust” social media campaign to “showcase Cognac’s Geographical Indication and educate on the region’s history, terroir, diversity of products and expertise of its growers and merchants,” the organization says in a press release.
Located on France’s Atlantic Coast and 75 miles north of Bordeaux, the Cognac region and its resulting spirit both take their name from the town at its center—Cognac. (Melissa Dowling, editor of our sister publication Cheers, recently took a trip to Cognac.) Defined by its maritime climate and the Charente River crossing the length of the region, Cognac’s history as a spirit-producing region dates back to the 16th century.
The Cognac appellation is divided into six crus, each with its own unique characteristics: Grande Champagne (elegance, subtlety); Petite Champagne (delicacy, suppleness); Borderies (long finish); Fins Bois (roundness, intensity); Bons Bois (smoothness); Bois Ordinaires (intensity, smoothness).
Covering 186,000 acres, Cognac’s vineyards are primarily planted with white variety Ugni Blanc, though Folle Blanche and Colombard are also found. These grapes produce high acid, low alcohol wines that are ideal for distillation — especially since Cognac does not allow the use of sulfur during winemaking.
Once the wine has been made, it must be distilled by March 31st following the harvest.
All Cognacs are double distilled in a Charentais copper still, producing the eau-de-vie. There are many choices a Cognac producer can make from winemaking until aging and blending, which will impact the overall flavor profile of the spirit.
Following maturation, the Master Blender for each Cognac producer follows his or her intuition to create a spirit that showcases the best of different crus or ages. The eau-de-vies to make the spirit must be aged a minimum of two years in oak before they can be called Cognac. The aged and blended Cognacs are divided into three groups, though Master Blenders generally use eau-de-vies that are older than the minimum requirement: V.S. (youngest eau-de-vie is at least 2 years old); V.S.O.P. (youngest at least 4 years old); and Napoléon or X.O. (youngest at least 6 years old).
More youthful blends such as V.S. and V.S.O.P. lend themselves well to centerpieces in cocktails, while X.O. offers a complexity that is best savored on its own—or with a cigar.
The Cognac trade is made up of 274 merchants, 112 distillers and over 4,500 winegrowers—all of whom are represented by the BNIC.
The Cognac region was delimited in 1909, and the BNIC was created in 1946 to further the knowledge of the region and its products. With a nearby port, Cognac has long been exported, and the majority of it finds its way to the United States. As the spirit category’s largest market, the United States accounts for 41% in volume and 39% in value. In general, North America accounted for 77.3 million bottles of Cognac, up 14.2% in volume and 14.3% in value from the previous year.