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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Courvoisier, the Allied Domecq-owned Cognac brand, has asked for a 10% increase in production from its 1,100 wine growers for the 2004 vintage, as the brand builds on the sector's growth. Liz Hodson, Allied's senior brand manager, told Harpers that Cognac is 3% up in the off-trade and Courvoisier, the UK's best-selling Cognac, is 8% up in both volume and value, and remains the UK's best-selling Cognac. Jean-Marc Olivier, Courvoisier's purchasing and technical director, said that this year he would be buying 70 million litres of wine in anticipation of growing demand. He said that in the 1990s, as demand declined, the Cognac houses found themselves with inventories high in old eaux-de-vie. With the stocks out of balance and the market growing in VS and VSOP, we needed to push production of young Cognacs. Hodson said that Allied is investing significantly in Courvoisier through advertising in lifestyle magazines. It is also targeting bartenders in cutting edge' bars and clubs with master classes in using Cognac in cocktails. Olivier said that Courvoisier has developed its Exclusif VSOP brand specifically for mixing with other drinks. While Hennessy's Fine de Cognac VSOP is light and fruity, to make it easier to consume for less-experienced drinkers, Olivier said Exclusif has been made deliberately heavier than its traditional VSOP to emphasise its sophistication and complexity'. Exclusif is made from eaux-de-vie from Fins Bois (five years old), Fine Champagne (six to 10 years old and 15 years old) and Borderies, whereas the traditional Courvoisier VSOP is only Fine Champagne. Olivier was in London last week holding master classes in central London restaurants such as Hakkasan and Yauatcha as well as in Hackney and Brixton. The company has also flown bartenders over to its Jarnac base for tasting. Charlie Sorrell, of Aura restaurant in London's St James's, came up with a cocktail called Wakey, Wakey', which comprises toast and marmalade pured and blended with Courvoisier. By contrast, Martell is looking for its next move in the UK, having decided to stop its high-profile and expensive sponsorship of the Grand National horse race. At a recent press briefing in Cognac, Patrick Ricard and Richard Burrows of Pernod Ricard outlined their plans for the brand, which were primarily aimed at the US and Chinese markets. Ricard told the press corps of predominately British and French journalists that the company had no significant activity for either the UK or French markets. Burrows told Harpers that the UK was still bloody important' but the brand had been neglected (under Seagram's ownership) and lots of distribution had been lost'. He said the money from the Grand National could be used more effectively. Ricard told Harpers that the company could not do everything at once, that activity for Martell needed to become more consumer-dedicated' and that the company was looking to drive demand through the on-trade.