Cognac sales are expected to set a new record this year, according to a trade body in the French region.

An increase in the area given over to Cognac production was announced yesterday (30 July) by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), which should see the amount of pure alcohol in the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée of Cognac rise by 27% on last year.

The BNIC also said that it is calling for all producers to maintain the level of reserve stocks at 10% to sufficiently meet global demand for the liqueur.

In the year to the end of April, shipments of Cognac grew by just under 10%, following five consecutive years of growth.

Cognac sells 12.2m nine-litre cases - or 157m bottles - a year, putting it at the top of international consumption tables for quality eaux-de-vie, according to the BNIC.

VSOP and higher categories have registered the highest increase, with VSOP shipments up by 17.7% to 4.68m cases, while the XO and above category rose by 18.4% to 1.43m cases. The VS category was up by 2.7% to 6.09m cases.

The BNIC claims that Europe is Cognac's biggest market, accounting for 37.8% of world volume and shipments have increased due to the Russian market for the spirit growing 54.9% influencing the neighbouring states such as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the Ukraine. The Cognac market has also seen sales rise 35.5% in the Netherlands and 27.8% in Switzerland.

The US continues to remain the biggest single export market and total shipments for Asia have risen by 20.4%, with exports to China up by a massive 49.3%.

The BNIC's director of marketing and communications, Jérôme Durand, said: "The growth of Cognac is down to the fact that it meets consumer needs for premium and luxury goods and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. We know that, today, 70% to 80% of Cognac drunk does not concern the older Cognacs taken as a digestif, but rather younger Cognacs enjoyed on ice, in long drinks or cocktails".

The BNIC added that with almost 95% exported, Cognac currently represents some EUR1.5bn (US$2.05bn) in France's balance of trade figures, an increase of 10.5% in one year.