Aged to perfection

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Updated: February 18, 2015 5:11 PM

Made from fermented grapes and aged for almost two years, cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac. By Kahini Chakraborty

Made from fermented grapes and aged for almost two years, cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac. By Kahini Chakraborty

20150228eh36Whether you prefer it neat, with ice, or in a cocktail, cognac has been around for many years. Unlike its better known counterpart like brandy, cognac is comparatively less talked about in India. For some the subject may be new, but for connoisseurs the sheer experience of having a cognac is enthralling. Cognac, named after the town of Cognac in France, is a variety of brandy after the distillation and during the aging process, it is also called eau de vie. It is produced by doubly distilling white wines produced in any of the designated growing regions. Though everything about it is so very French, surprisingly cognac is not the preferred drink in France; almost 97 per cent of the spirit is exported. The consumers not only happen to be African-Americans, but the spirit has found admirers in India as well.

20150228eh34Rukn Luthra

The spirit (cognac) being more of a sensory experience, involving the eyes, nose and the taste buds, has different consumption patterns in different regions. Here, in India, consumers prefer it after a meal as an after drink. Especially in South India, people consume the same as a drink of choice, yet the consumption is limited to after meal drink which otherwise happens to be an anytime drink in different regions, often sipped in with the Cuban cigar. The existing and the new rich from developing countries have in the recent past boosted the demand for cognacs and with new industry players, the competition and demand is expected to be at an all time high.

Market choice

20150228eh35Nikhil Agarwal

While one would imagine that cognac would be more popular in South India which is a strong market for brandy, lately there has been an equally strong traction from North India as well. Remy Martin and Hennessy leads with Martel and Courvoisier close behind in terms of market demand. Even though the other top-end cognac brand Delamain is available in India, its distribution is limited. And the good news is that there is an audience in the market that is willing to spend on well known quality cognac brands. The International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) pegged the cognac market in India to be demonstrating a CAGR of well of over 20 per cent in 2013. This has been attributed to the traditional whisky and brandy drinkers trading up to cognacs. With the big brands being well accepted and with growing awareness, the culture for consumption of cognac is still vastly traditional but moving on to cognac based cocktails as well. Sula Selections which is imported and represents the global brand Remy Cointreau, which introduced the chill shots giving customers a whole new way of enjoying cognac, has taken off well in the market. Rukn Luthra, managing director, India & Gulf, Remy Cointreau India states, “Even though there is an audience willing to spend, cognacs are priced at the same level as certain single malts and other whiskies which move in huge volumes.” While Nikhil Agarwal, wine sommelier, informs that in order to maintain the position of the cognac brands in the market, All Things Nice does regular cognac related events and promotions in various formats.

20150228eh38Remy Martin continues to be a leader in the ultra-premium cognac category and its focus on quality is evidenced by its insistence on only using eau-de-vie from grapes grown exclusively in the top two Cognac regions: Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. “While Remy Martin VSOP has been very popular as a chilled shot, cocktail, as well as neat and on-the-rocks, Remy Martin XO continues to be loved as a post-dinner drink or even serve as its own occasion,” informs Luthra.

20150228eh37He adds, “The house of Remy Martin has received strong support for its flagship Cognac – the LOUIS XIII. With a bottle costing anywhere over Rs 2.5 lakh, the strong response that this cognac has received goes to show that Indian consumers are willing to spend on premium labels as long as they see the highest possible quality.”

Agarwal points out that even though there is a huge demand and tremendous growth opportunity, the challenges faced in the India market are high taxes and different taxes within each state and less awareness. While Luthra adds, “The entire industry has faced challenges with FSSAI regulations of labelling over the past 12 months, but everyone remains optimistic of future growth as the country as a whole continues to expand its horizons.”

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