Autumn rise in cognac exports in France after difficult year

Cognac trade body confident about the future with shipments in October 2020 4% higher than they were in October 2019

22 January 2021
Although it is one of France’s most valuable exports, relatively little cognac is drunk in France, where sales of spirits are dominated by whisky, mainly imported from Scotland
By Connexion journalist

Cognac exports rose in October, leading to hopes that a year profoundly marked by the Covid-19 crisis might end on an optimistic note.

The latest figures gathered by the main trade body, the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), showed that 184.2million bottles were exported in the 12 months ending on October 31 – a 15.7% fall compared to 2019.

Travel bans, logistics difficulties, restaurant closures and economic uncertainty all played a role in the fall.

For the month of October, however, shipments were 4% higher than they were in October 2019.

A BNIC spokeswoman told The Connexion: “In spite of the overall fall, we are confident in the future, thanks to encouraging signs from China and Asia, good figures from the United States, where our VS quality cognacs are resisting well, and the solidity of our economic model.”

Although the volume of bottles of cognac sold in 2019 was stable in cash terms, the €3.1billion in exports was up around 8% as sales of more expensive, older cognacs rose. After the last crisis in the sector, prompted by economic instability in the mid-1990s, controls on how many grapes can be planted for cognac were tightened.

The mission of the BNIC was changed in 2010 to cover broader policies, with defending AOC cognac the first priority, followed by establishing standards and policing the rules.

Although it is one of France’s most valuable exports, relatively little cognac is drunk in France, where sales of spirits are dominated by whisky, mainly imported from Scotland.

Nearly 400,000 fewer bottles were sold in France in the year to October compared to last year, with the fall being mainly due to duty-free shops in airports shutting.

Lockdown and travel restrictions have made it hard for buyers and other professionals such as bar-owners to visit Cognac this year.

To get round this, the BNIC has been encouraging members to engage in virtual tasting sessions, with bottles being sent by post and then discussed in a session over video links.

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