The new labelling term is ‘XXO’, which stands for ‘Extra Extra Old’. It requires the youngest distillate in the blend to be of at least 14 years of age.
The addition follows a dispute between the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO), which regulates all French appellations, and luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) over a new cognac launched in 2017 named ‘Hennessy XXO Hors d’Age’.
The rules that dictate cognac’s ageing terms have remained largely unchanged since they were put in place in 1983. Then the BNIC codified three indications of age based on the youngest brandy in the blend, and allowed all cognac houses to use the terms VS (two years), VSOP (four years) and XO (six years – increased to 10 years last April).
LVMH justified the launch of its XXO Hors d’Age by claiming that it had already used the label before ageing terms were regulated. In fact, Hennessy did make an XXO as early as 1872, but its production was ceased in the first half of the 20th century.
The regulators gave LVMH the green light to bottle its XXO once more last summer, and the new age classification was officially introduced into the Cognac AOC in December 2018, allowing all houses to bottle XXOs.