This year's round of reduced harvests across Europe has also hit the Cognac region, with a probable 30% reduction in availability of the ugni blanc grape on which Cognac is based.

The 2007 harvest, which started this week, is expected to yield only 90 hectolitres per hectare, in place of the usual 120hl, as rain and mildew took their toll.

The shortage coincides with a boom in Cognac sales with 160m bottles sold in 2006, and annual growth of nearly 10%.

Asked if the grape shortage could impact supply, Jerome Durand of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) said provisions had been put in place.

This year, Durand said, the bureau had planned to increase QNV levels - Quantité Normalement Vinifier or amount of grapes turned into Cognac - by 27%. Low yields mean the increase will be more like 14%, but this will still cover increasing demand, he said.