As I write this, I’m still in France, soaking up all there is to soak in the lovely city of Bordeaux. The International Cognac Summit was exhausting, but an absolute joy to attend. The Bureau National Interprofessionel de Cognac organized a wonderful event full of exciting people, fascinating visits and, of course, gorgeous Cognacs.
One of the most memorable round tables took place the first morning, when the group discussed ways to draw more women to Cognac. The Americans and Brits tossed around various ideas, seeming to agree that appealing Cognac-based cocktails were a big part of the answer. As people debated what ingredients and styles of cocktails women might most enjoy (I say quality ingredients in a delicious combination, the same as men, but what do I know?), I realized the French contingent hadn’t offered any ideas.
I said, “I’d like to hear from our French colleagues on this question. Since 97% of Cognac is exported, it seems to me there’s a huge opportunity here in France to sell more Cognac. What do you think?” I was expecting perhaps some ideas about ways to counter the French stereotype that women who drink Cognac are at best old fashioned, and at worst alcoholics and “bad mothers.”
After a long, silent pause, the moderator interjected, “Maybe Pierre, since you’re a bartender, you would be good to ask?”
I repeated the question, and Pierre (not his real name) replied, “Well, the marketing dollars go where the Cognac is selling, so they don’t have the chance to market so much here in France, because most Cognac is sold abroad. Also, you have to understand that advertising alcohol, it’s not the same as in the U.S. We have laws, so, you can’t just put up a billboard the way you can in America.”
Unimpressed by these rather strange excuses, I asked, “So it’s just hopeless?”
After some noises of consternation started bubbling forth, the moderator was forced to cut off the discussion. We were running late.
Working on ways to draw more women to drinking Cognac was a fine theme for the summit, and a fascinating one as well. But for next year’s summit, it might be wise to devote it to convincing the French themselves to drink more Cognac. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done right at home!