Marketing an upscale cognac in California is a family affair

Marketing an upscale cognac in California is a family affair – Giboin cognac

Olivier Giboin is carrying on the family cognac tradition in California, thousands of miles from the Giboin estate in France. He first came to California to gain experience working in a Napa winery, but has stayed to try and sell the family’s cognac to upscale markets on the West Coast.

The Giboin family has been making cognac since 1830 from 60 acres of family-owned vineyards in the Borderies appellation of Cognac. They make 4,000 cases a year, including a VS, VSOP, Napoleon and XO Royal.

The VS is aged five years, the VSOP for ten years. They are both estate-bottled cognacs and retail (in California) for $20 and $28.

The Napoleon Reserve de Castex (named after a family member who was an aide de camp of Napoleon 1) is made from 80% grapes grown in the Grande Champagne appellation and 20 % from Fin Bois. It is in barrel for 15 years and sells for $45. The Royal is 100 % Grand Champagne appellation grapes and spends 25 years in cask. It retails for $80.

Giboin has all four cognacs available in California, as well as a Pineau des Charentes, all made by his father Michel although his brother Francois is also involved in cellar duties.

Olivier Giboin’s goal is to sell 2,000 cases of the family cognac in the U.S. Presently he brings in about 500 cases through Ray Cavagnaro, Inc., the sole importer of Giboin. Distribution in northern California is handled by Southern Wine & Spirits.

Giboin has had some success placing the cognac in high quality retail stores, such as Corti Brothers in Sacramento and Petrini’s, an upscale grocery chain in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He is now going after the restaurant business. “I want to meet and taste with restaurant staff, to educate them about cognac and our family cognacs,” he said.

“I believe the California market is about ready to move into fine cognac. More and more people are looking for a unique product. Look at all the micro-breweries that have started in the past few years,” Giboin added.

He believes that by offering the four different cognacs it will help promote the diversity of cognacs, not just the top brands.

Giboin is having the bottle and the labels of the VS and VSOP redesigned. As part of that project, he wanted to add the phrase “estate bottled” but so far the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearmsis dragging its heels on that.

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