Grape Brandy poised for rediscovery

Q: How important is Lucien Bernard in France and worldwide?

Founded 90 years ago in Bordeaux, Lucien Bernard has the largest ageing capacity – all of it in French oak casks – and is the biggest operator in wine brandy in Europe. It is also the number one exporter of wine brandy in Europe.

Q: What are your major international markets?

China, USA, UK, Spain

Q: Which are your fastest growing markets and why?

First China, thanks to their taste for aged Western wine spirits and because of an important emerging middle class looking for a high quality, yet affordable, imported category. Then the USA, mainly because of a growing appetite for genuine and crafted brown spirits and a continuous search for new products and new drinks.

Not least, mixologists all around the world are advocating a return to genuine and creative drinks based on brandy.

Q: What is turnover by volume and how has it evolved in the last three years?

Lucien Bernard bulk activity is equivalent to 40 million bottles a year with a trend to higher quality and aged brandies made only from wine.

Q: What are the three major challenges facing Lucien Bernard

Our main challenges are to:

  • protect our pure wine brandy and traditional oak ageing (as defined by the EU)

against counterfeit and low-cost products

  • manage supplies and maintain high quality despite large variations in the wine harvest
  • defend pure wine brandy produced in France while respecting the differences with Cognac and Armagnac which come from specific vineyards with AOC protection.

Q: Do you plan to diversify into Lucien Bernard branded eaux de vie?

Last year we launched Lucien Bernard XO Brandy to celebrate our 90thanniversary. It is a limited cuvée which received the Chairman’s Trophy at the prestigious Ultimate Challenge co-created with Paul Pacult in New York.

Nonetheless, our main focus remains the ageing and blending of bulk brandy to serve global and local wine and spirits players.

Q: From where do you source your spirits?

We source from everywhere good grapes are grown and from serious business partners who can supply quality wine eaux de vie.

Q: What do orders from around the world reveal about consumer tastes?

In the US and the UK, they are looking for rather elegant and versatile brandies. In Asian countries the preference is for brandies with a feel of wood and an old spirits tasting profile.

Q: What consumer trends are driving demand for brandy, eg cocktails?

Cocktails for sure. Brandy permits an infinity of cocktail recipes. Let us not forget that originally popular cocktails such as the Old Fashioned or the Sazerac were made with brandy. Top mixologists seeking authenticity and old spirits are creating a new trend for brandy. At the same time connoisseurs are seeking unique and craft premium spirits.

Q: How important is consumer education in driving sales of brandy generally?

Consumer education is key, especially with the rebirth of the brandy category which proclaims its high-end status and which has to be rediscovered by many people.

Company Profile: Four generations of the Bernard family have driven growth of this Bordeaux-based distiller, wine and spirits trader and Chateaux owner. At its heart is the skill and know-how of blending ageing pure wine spirits which are now exported worldwide.