THE COGNAC SECTOR INVESTS IN THE FUTURE WITH THE BNIC’S NEW HEADQUARTERS
Today, on Monday 5 June 2023, on the banks of the Charente River in Cognac, the French Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Marc Fesneau laid the first stone of the future headquarters of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC). Among those present were representatives of the Cognac sector, architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, regional elected officials and numerous other partners. With construction set to be completed in 2025, these new headquarters reflect the Cognac sector’s commitment to achieving its environmental transition. Two other announcements were also made today, aptly on World Environment Day: the creation of Imagine Cognac, an ambitious environmental research and development programme supporting the Cognac sector and region, and the strengthening of Cognac Environmental Certification, with the aim of having the entire delimited area fully certified by 2028.
- Launch of the future BNIC headquarters’ construction site attended by Minister Marc Fesneau
At 11.30 am on Monday 5 June, the French Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Marc Fesneau inaugurated the construction site of the future BNIC headquarters in Cognac. A few metres from the eighty-year-old lime trees surrounding the future architectural complex, the first stone was laid in the presence of the President and Vice-President of the BNIC, Mr. Christophe Veral and Mr. Alexandre Gabriel, Mayor of Cognac, Mr. Morgan Berger and Mr. Jean-Michel Wilmotte, architect and founder of the architectural firm Wilmotte & Associés. The event was attended by sector and regional representatives, numerous guests and partners, as well as BNIC employees. “We wanted to build the future BNIC headquarters in the heart of Cognac. Here, on the banks of the Charente River, is where it all began for our wine spirits. We want to forge the shared future of Cognac in this very place, aiming for a prosperous and sustainable future for the generations to come and for our much-treasured region,” explained BNIC President Christophe Veral.
“It is a great honour to inaugurate the new headquarters of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac in this magnificent setting on the banks of the Charente River. It’s an opportunity for me to celebrate the Cognac sector as the true cement of our terroirs, which conveys structure, and the professions, wine and spirit companies and expertise that bring this region to life. This is an opportunity to honour the Cognac sector, which is our leading exporter of spirits, with international sales of over 3.8 billion. This economic strength goes hand in hand with a strong commitment to the environmental transition, with investment in research and development, particularly in agro-ecology. Today, I’d like to reiterate my commitment to helping winegrowers make these changes and promote their know-how on the export market. This superb showcase for the Cognac sector, designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, is a remarkable tribute to this sector of excellence. I am proud today to symbolically lay the foundation stone.” added Mr. Marc Fesneau, French Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, attending the event.
The new BNIC headquarters, designed by the developer REDMAN and the architectural firm Wilmotte & Associés, will be a place for teamwork, interaction and innovation, symbolising Cognac’s strong attachment to its past and its confidence in the future. “This project serves as an architectural showcase for the excellence of one of France’s flagship sectors, Cognac. We have designed a timeless project consisting of understated and elegant monolithic architectural features. It is inspired by contemporary classicism,” stated architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
The building will also illustrate the inextricable link between the sector and its local roots. Priority will be given to regional companies for the construction work, and the ambitious, elegant architectural complex will contribute to the attractiveness of the town of Cognac and the region at large. “The installation of the BNIC’s headquarters on the quayside is a strong sign of the revival of the Cognac sector on the banks of the Charente River. This ambitious project also marks the revival of the town and the profound transformation of an emblematic district of Cognac”, concluded Morgan Berger, Mayor of Cognac.
A real investment in the future for Cognac stakeholders and the region, the new headquarters also has ambitious sustainable objectives, both in terms of its construction and the very definition of its missions and purpose. It is here that the actions linked to the major challenges for the Cognac sector will be generated and coordinated, as the project plans to bring together all the BNIC’s departments, including R&D, formerly the Station Viticole, in a single location for the first time.
- Imagine Cognac, a new and ambitious research and development strategy for the Cognac sector, serving the region and its people
In this context and on this year’s World Environment Day, the Cognac sector also announced the creation of an R&D association. Its purpose is to mobilise additional resources and coordinate collective work to implement research and development actions and accelerate the Cognac sector’s energy and environmental transition. Water, soil and air conservation, energy savings, protecting people, promoting biodiversity and preserving landscapes are among the issues to be addressed.
“We want to roll out our R&D faster and better through this association, to secure the long-term future of Cognac in its native region, and maintain the quality of life which its inhabitants aspire to. We owe it to Cognac stakeholders to speed up our environmental transition and make it a success, not only for them but also for all the people of Charente. The theme of the first research programme is highly symbolic in this respect as it seeks to develop alternatives to traditional plant protection products with a view to abandoning the use of pesticides in the long term,” explained Patrick Léger, President of the new association.
The members of the association will be divided into seven colleges: the “Cognac Sector” (winegrowers and merchants), “Extended Cognac Sector”, “Scientific Partners” (scientific bodies), “Public and Private Financial Partners”, “Potential Funding Partners”, “Civil Society” and “Local Government”.
Funding will be provided by winegrowers, who have already introduced a specific compulsory voluntary levy (CVO), and by merchants and financial partners with an interest in the association’s purpose.
The yearly fee will depend on the college. This funding will help scale up work and studies with a view to pooling synergies and mobilising collective resources. The results of research conducted will be disseminated freely to all BNIC members and beyond, in a spirit of networking and joint progress. In line with this approach, the association will seek recognition as being in the public interest to generate stronger and speedier impact of the progress made. Support of the public authorities will be very important in this regard.
Imagine Cognac will draw on the expertise of the BNIC’s Scientific and Technical Council, made up of 10 industry professionals and 10 academic scientists. The BNIC’s Technical and Sustainable Development division will continue to be responsible for all scientific expertise relating to Cognac, from vine to bottle, while the Imagine Cognac association will work specifically on the Cognac sector’s environmental transition.
- Strengthening Cognac Environmental Certification (CEC) and targeting 100 % certification by 2028
The Cognac sector also announced today that it will be revising its environmental certification to open up the process to all recognised Level 2 certifications and to official organic certification (the “AB” label). In addition, it will place greater emphasis on the objectives it considers essential, i.e. promoting biodiversity, monitoring water, air and soil quality, taking a sustainable approach to the use of plant protection products, sustainably managing microbial life and aiming for carbon-sober operations.
This initiative is fully compatible with the existing CEC-HEV model, which will still be entirely valid once the new system is rolled out at the beginning of next year.
The sector has clearly reaffirmed its objective of 100 % environmental certification by 2028.
© BNIC / Alberto Bocos-Gil
© BNIC / Alberto Bocos-Gil
ABOUT THE BNIC
The BNIC, or Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, represents, develops and preserves the Cognac AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée), both in France and abroad.
In the 150+ countries where Cognac is sold, this Geographical Indication provides consumers with a guarantee that they are buying an outstanding wine spirit. Comprising an equal number of members from the winegrowing and commercial sides of the industry, the BNIC is a coordination and decision-making body which brings together almost 4,300 winegrowers and grower-distillers, 120 professional distillers, and 265 merchants operating within the appellation.
The BNIC defends the interests of Cognac producers and consumers, with an unwavering commitment to everyone with an interest in this appellation.