As Hennessy celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2015, wood diseases are threatening Cognac grapevines, giving rise to concerns across the production chain in the region. Hennessy is funding research against these diseases to safeguard the region’s invaluable natural resources.
Thanks to Hennessy, Cognac crafted from Charente’s exceptional eaux-de-vie has been renowned the world over since 1765. Some 44% of the cognacs sold worldwide today bear the Hennessy label. Today, Hennessy is coming to the forefront to ensure that the House – and indeed the entire industry – continues to flourish and grow. To do this Hennessy is taking steps to optimize and safeguard the vineyards of Charente. The company’s support for research into ways to fight wood diseases that threaten grapevines aims to protect the production chain throughout the Cognac region. Numerous fungal diseases are gradually killing the vines, requiring winegrowers to rip out their plants and replace them. The most serious are esca (also known as “black measles” in the U.S.), the propagation of which has accelerated since 2001, and “black dead arm”.
In December 2014, Hennessy launched an international call for proposals to support research into fighting these diseases, taking a leadership position in the battle to preserve Cognac grapevines. Throughout June, a committee of experts will evaluate shortlisted projects. The winning project will receive 600,000 euros in funding from Hennessy. Work on the selected project will begin at the end of 2015. In conjunction with the evaluations by the committee, Hennessy is hosting the annual European Cooperation in Science and Technology workshop on wood diseases in Cognac on June 23-24.
While Hennessy’s 250th anniversary in 2015 coincides with this new commitment, the House’s involvement efforts to fight diseases affecting grapevines is far from recent. In the late 1860s, Hennessy was on the front lines in adapting vines in the wake of the phylloxera crisis. A founding member of the Comité de Viticulture, Hennessy played a prominent role in combating the blight caused by the insect, which destroyed European vineyards after being carried from the United States. Maurice Hennessy, the great grandson of the founder, purchased American vineyards, then imported the vines to France and invested in research. The House provided unwavering financial support for experiments until grafted vines of the Charentais grape varieties proved vigorous. The Comité de Viticulture – of which Maurice Hennessy’s son James Hennessy became president – worked closely with winegrowers to generalize the grafting method, and the vineyards were saved.