Back in the 13th century, Dutch merchants bought wine from the Poitou region and sold it to the Nordic countries, where it was very popular. The wine had difficulty surviving the long trip, so they slowly started to distill it, and it became known as “burnt wine”. That is how Cognac was born.
COGNAC MAKING PROCESS
GRAPES TO WINE
Making cognac starts in the Charente’s vineyards where Ugni Blanc grapes are grown, destined to become Cognac. Once harvested, from August to September, these grapes are turned into wine. This wine is dedicated to distillation only.
WINE TO EAU-DE-VIE
Once wine making process is over, wine goes to the still where it is distilled a first time.
Heads and tails are removed to keep the heart only. This hear is distilled a second time, using the same still. And at the end, you will have a 70% ABV Eau-De-Vie.
This Eau-De-Vie will be aged for years to become Cognac. According to the A.O.P.’s specification (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), ageing must be done using new oak barrels, or a used Cognac cask. Once aged, they can be sorted in two main categories: Compte d’âge Cognac, and Vintage Cognac.
The rule is simple, the vintage labelled is the harvest vintage.
Either Compte d’âge or Vintage, the older it is, the more complex and richer it is.
A SCHEDULED PRODUCTION GROWTH
The largest companies in Cognac, such as Martell and Remy Martin for example, are working as merchants. Meaning a part of their Cognac is bought, at different steps of production, to local independent distilleries.
Among these merchants, Hennessy is the biggest one, representing more than 50% of the value and volumes produced in the Cognac area. Their will to increase their production impacts the entire industry.
As a result, new vineyards have been planted to increase the capacity of production and keep up with the sales schedules. And more Cognac also means more oak barrels (either new or used), and more storage to age it, which is a real problematic the industry is facing.
LACK OF STORAGE PLACE
Originally Cognac cellars were old building and looked traditional. Casks were stored on top of each other, which imply a lot of manual work, and time taking care of them. But now, modern buildings with large racking system are the new standard ensuring an easier way to work inside, and a largest storage capacity.
One thing important about Cognac is that all the production steps, including storage, must take place in Charente area. Meaning Cognac’s expansion is not unlimited. Besides, facilities dedicated to alcohol storage are under strict rules. Building a new one takes time as the fact it is answering the safety rules needs to be certified by different organisations.
These elements lead to a situation where storage has become a real wealth in Charente.
Cognac industry is moving quickly, and its evolution goes through important investments (facilities, casks, …). Our role is to support our clients through our leasing and recycling services.
On the one hand, our leasing solution is a way for the distilleries to preserve their cash flow and investment capacity. Leasing can be used for both casks and equipment, such as racks, still, …
On the other hand, our recycling service is a reliable source of used Cognac casks. Each barrel is controlled by an experienced cooper to ensure its ability to hold Cognac for an additional couple of years.
Cognac industry is living a rich and exiting time, and we are proud to be part of it!
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