Cognac wants to plant, but the other French regions oppose the plans

Thursday January 17 2019 by Vitisphere

 Although Cognac has always prided itself on being a unique product in the French winescape, it can no longer be controlled purely with its own interests in mind. There is a real fear of knock-on effects for white wine producer regions. Although Cognac has always prided itself on being a unique product in the French winescape, it can no longer be controlled purely with its own interests in mind. There is a real fear of knock-on effects for white wine producer regions. - Photo credit : Tableau d'Eduard Kurzbauer (la Dispute).

A meeting of representatives from France’s wine regions on 19 December in Paris was unable to vote on applications for new vineyard planting quotas for 2019, due to unprecedented demand from Charente, the home of Cognac. The region requested 3,474 hectares of new planting authorisations.

Although the applications stem from the Charentes wine marketing board’s business plan, in which market forecasts state that 10,000 hectares of new vines will be needed over the next three years, and the Cognac industry voted a quota of 3,474 hectares for 2019, other French regions are reluctant. Industry representatives have not forgotten previous crises.

When Cognac struggles....

We're all concerned. Charente already applied for a lot of hectares last year, and it is still planning to request many more in the future”, explains Provence winegrower Thomas Montagne, who chairs the Independent Winegrowers of France organisation and sits on the specialised wine council. Admittedly, Cognac “is experiencing strong sales growth, but international conditions are not very good. What we do know is that when Cognac struggles, its production overflows into the white wine category, destabilising the Gers area, then South-West France and the entire country”.

Winning over opponents

The application for 3,474 ha mirrors a calculated need. The situation today is not the same as it was twenty years ago”, says Florent Morillon, supply director for Hennessy - which accounted for 49% of Cognac shipments in 2017 - and a member of the specialised wine council on behalf of the Cognac trade. Hennessy points out that the region’s industry is now based on widespread implementation of multi-year contracts, a vineyard allocation system and the need to replenish climate-related reserve stocks. Colossal investments also demonstrate the support of international groups and their belief in the sales potential of Cognac, including LVMH, the owner of Hennessy.

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