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JUNE 2013

Dear friend of fine spirits,

Major shifts at Maison Surrenne:. The cognac market in China has exploded. There is simply not enough cognac to take care of the incredible growth. Before, when the category was in decline, many grape-growers in the region had taken out their grapes: only about 70% of the vineyard land remains active. It will be quite a while before the situation settles down.

The big houses (Hennessy is now 6 million cases) are buying up 1) grapes 2) stocks of aging cognac 3) smaller producers. Other small houses are being forced out of business by the unavailability of grapes/cognac. For example, when LVMH (owner of Hennessy) sold the venerable house of Hine, the buyer got the name only; Hennessy kept all the barreled cognac. The price of grande champagne grapes has increased by 500%; small houses cannot afford them. Vineyards are being offered extra money to sign exclusive and long-term contracts.

Fortunately Tiffon, Surrenne’s producer, is large enough and has the cash flow (they do big business in Scandinavia under the Braastad label) to continue; they also have unusually large stocks of aging cognac. However, Tiffon no longer has access to the grapes they distilled for several of the Surrenne bottlings.

At the $48 price, we now have a bottling labeled simply as Cognac, an appealing and complex blend which includes brandies from Tiffon’s own vineyards in the Fin Bois region. Since the regional bottlings now come from their old stock, the prices have increased, and the petite champagne will be out of stock until 2014.

The bottlings are still bargains for the quality. There’s a new free DVD about Surrenne: call Sue Miller at 800 782-8145 .


Spirits maven Paul Pacult’s annual ranking of the world’s best spirits placed Russell Henry London Dry Gin at no. 11.