Exclusive: For the first time ever a Chinese company is posed to step into the game of cognac production and distribution. A deal was struck last week when the trade mark of menuet cognac »”>Menuet Cognac was sold to Hong Kong Cartak (Madini) Intl. Co., LTD.
Cognac-Expert.com brings you this exclusive story after our meeting with the senior management of the company last week. Just back from sealing the deal, the delegation returned from Cognac to Paris, and told us, “We came to Cognac to make business.”
A Shopping Tour in the South West of France
Let’s take a look at what Hong Kong Cartak (Madini) Intl. Co., LTD actually did – so far, it’s pretty impressive:
The trademark of Cognac Menuet was bought, with a history that dates back to 1680, (including use of the logo, name etc. and of course the history and story of the Cognac house). Cartak also rents a bottling site in Cognac; it seems to be the former packaging and bottling company A C J, situated in the “Zones d’activités Z.A. DE LA HAUTE SARRAZINE” in Cognac.
The company also rents a property in the town of Cognac, right next to Monnet and close to Martell Cognac, in the Avenue Paul Firino Martell. This will be the future HQ of Menuet.
“Cartak” is also in talks for buying some hectares of vineyard in the Grande Champagne area.
Targeting Chinese Premium Market
Needless to point out, the focus of this acquisition lies on China & Hong Kong as main future markets, especially in the upper premium segment, meaning XO Cognac and older. Menuet’s VSOP will be targeted at the European and North American markets.
“Cartak” is no beginner to the business, having been into cognac trade for 10 years now. The company imports about 20 containers per year, that is round about 160.000 bottles. It is likely to be of an upper premium quality, priced at around 60-100 Euro and upwards. This results in an annual trade revenue of let’s say three to five million Euro.
An official of the Chinese company told Cognac-Expert.com, “The quality and age of future Menuet products will depend on the market demand. We focus on VSOP, XO, Napoleon and Hors d’Age. Our goal is to export 30 containers per year.”
“Willing to buy more vineyards in the Grande Champagne”
The Hong Kong based company is not worried that the people from Charente and the Cognac region might be sceptical about them buying a brand, “because we’ve gained the support and help from cognac officials and cooperative partners. Our idea is to develop and inherit the brand of Menuet.”
A company spokesperson said they are willing “to buy more vineyards in the Grande Champagne, or Petite Champagne.”
However, as the price per hectare is currently at 40.000 Euro, the company from Hong Kong will need to invest a little bit more. The company is negotiating with a seller at the moment.
“Our target is win-win”
Cartak has been in business with Menuet for many years. Furthermore, Cartak bought cognac from Menuet under their brand names “Morancy” and “John Marthon” (originally an equipment manufacturer).
The Cartak delegation told us,
“It’s a pity that Menuet has faced some financial difficulty, so we injected some capital to help its development”. The company also stressed that they do not have any plans of changing the structure of the traditional company of Menuet. “We believe that it is the best solution for Menuet. Our target is win-win”.
Of course, the question will be who will supply Menuet with cognac? As far as we know, Tessendier, AE DOR and Prunier have been suppliers of Hong Kong Cartak (Madini) Intl. Co., LTD. in the past – at least we were told.
Great to own a brand, but where will the old eau-de-vie come from? In order to reach their goal of 30 containers per year the company will need to find additional sources and buy up stock from other cognac producers. If they are looking to export mainly XO Cognac and older, this could prove to be tricky. Everyone knows, old eau-de-vie is becoming a rare and valuable commodity. All big cognac brands are constantly negotiating over it, the “new” Menuet Cognac has entered the ring.
One also wonders who will manage the cognac company, and which role Menuet’s cellar master David Croizet will play in the future. Will he remain faithful to his cellar? Will he be able to deal with the cultural clash, which will no doubt occur?
Cognac crisis deepens
As the Chinese thirst for cognac gets ever greater, the availability of old cognacs becomes more and more limited. BNIC figures say that the Far East market has risen by 14.4 per cent, and China itself saw a 20 per cent increase in demand in the last 12 months.
Thousands of cognac distillers are being asked to supply younger blends in order to create the sheer volume that is needed. And this, naturally, is leading to a shortage of the higher quality, the older cognacs. So it will be an interesting path indeed for Cartak, as they will need to continue to find the older eaux-de-vies if they intend to fully supply their target market.
It will be exciting to witness what happens with this new development.
Cognac-Expert.com will keep you updated.
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Images: Google Streetview, Menuet Website