Annual sales cognac: 600,000 bottles
Buy wine/eaux-de-vie from: Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne
Vineyards of its own: 170 acres in Grande Champagne

 

P18Bernard Hine in front of The Stag which was used as the company emblem already in 1822 but 
was not registered as a trademark until 1867.
 

It is often said that Hine is the most English of all cognac houses. Although the UK is no longer Hine’s largest market, the firm probably still has its most loyal clientele here. Since 1962, Hine is a purveyor to the British Royal Family.

Thomas Hine was born in Dorset, southern England. In 1791, only 16 years old, Thomas is sent by his father to Jarnac to learn French and the art of making cognac. He gets employment with James Delamain, who for several decades has been running a cognac house here. Six years later Thomas marries James’ daughter and at James’ death in 1800, Thomas is appointed heir. In 1817 Thomas decides to rename the company in his own name: Thomas Hine & Co. 

Time passes and sons succeed fathers and the sixth generation Hine, the cousins Jacques and Bernard, take over the lead in the 1960s. Since the 1970s, the house has belonged to various multinational ownership groups, but recently it returned to French ownership when the Nicolas family, founders of the French wine retailer of the same name (now sold), purchased the company in 2013.

Unlike the majority of cognac houses Hine has its own vineyards (since 2004), a viniculture which at present covers about 20 % of the production requirements. The property is located in Bonneuil in the heart of Grande Champagne and covers 300 acres, of which 170 are vineyards. The ageing takes place in three locations: in Bonneuil, in Jarnac, and – lo and behold – the whisky island Islay in Scotland! 

P19

In order to be allowed to use the name cognac on the your products it is from 2009 no longer permitted to store the eaux-de-vie outside the appellation boundaries. Exempt are cognac houses that can refer to a long tradition in this field. Hine is one of the few houses that qualify because of its long history of ageing eaux-de-vie in the UK, the so-called Early Landed tradition. Until the late 19th century, cognac was usually shipped in casks across the Channel and the young eaux-de-vie was then matured in humid warehouses in Bristol or in London. Nowadays only exclusive vintage cognacs receive this special treatment. Until 2008, Hine stored these casks in Bristol, but the entire stock has now been moved to Islay, Scotland. Hine offers an exceptionally wide selection of vintage cognac, all of them from Grande Champagne.

Unlike the majority of producers in les Champagnes Hine has always preferred the tight and medium-grained oak, especially casks made of oak from the Tronçais Forest in the northwest corner of Auvergne. The cellars in Jarnac are right next to the Charente river and the humidity is in the range between 70 and 90 per cent. The temperature range from 6 °C in the winter to 22 °C in the summer. The storage conditions in the UK are radically different. The temperature variations here are more limited and humidity rarely drops below 95 %. Early Landed cognacs are therefore perceived as a bit softer and fruitier, while those aged in Jarnac become more powerful and more complex in taste.

P20

Hine only uses eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. The only exception is the Cigar Reserve, in which a smaller proportion of eaux-de-vie from Borderies and Fins Bois are included. H by Hine and Rare are both denominated VSOP. The former is a four-year-old while Rare contains eaux-de-vie matured for 10 years on average. Homage is essentially a mixture of the Early Landed cognacs from three vintages of the eighties. Antique XO Premier Cru is the company’s flagship and consists of 40 different eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne. A delicious cognac!


This is an abridged version of a translation of pages 87–89 of the Swedish book Cognac – kungen av eau-de-vier (Cognac – the king of eaux-de-vie) © Stevali Production and Gunnar Svedberg, 2014.

© Gunnar Svedberg 2015-11-05

 

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© Gunnar Svedberg 2015
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