While vineyards have suffered from bad weather, pandemic-caused demand, and supply shocks, French Cognac sales are doing better than ever. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), a leading industry group reported sales of the brandy from France rose 31% in value in 2021.
BNIC stated (in French) the growth reflects a recovery as well as new drinking habits. The rise in sales shows consumers are willing to spend more on premium liquor. While brandy can be made all over the world, Cognac is only made in France, in limited quantities. Almost all of it—95%—is exported. BNIC estimates Cognac production increased 1.6% from 2019 to 2021.
The largest producers of Cognac include LVMH, Rémy Cointreau, Pernod Ricard, and Suntory who make Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell, and Courvoisier, respectively.
France exported $4.5 billion worth of brandy in the 12 months prior to October 2021, $4.1 billion of that was Cognac according to BNIC.
The world’s top buyers of Cognac are the US and China. The US imported 115 million bottles of French brandy in the 12 months before October 2021, an increase from pre-pandemic levels worth about $600 million. Cognac is somewhat of a status symbol in China and if recent trends hold, China could unseat the US as the world’s top buyer in the coming years.
Cognac isn’t the only French alcohol finding more popularity around the world. Wine and champagne sales are also higher than they were before the pandemic. Riding out the pandemic, Americans drank more champagne and Cognac. Consumers stocking up in anticipation of a shortage may also be part of the rising demand for wine. France faced its smallest harvest in decades last year. Or perhaps, pandemic alcohol consumption has motivated some to drink less, but drink better.
BNIC predicts the future market for Cognac will continue to grow. “Cognac remains marked by a very strong momentum,” said BNIC president Christophe Veral. Going into 2022 the industry is optimistic. According to BNIC, the 2021 harvest for grapes that make Cognac was near normal levels.