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Ten years ago a successful Chinese real estate investor and bon vivant called Roger Wang visited Bordeaux with his eyes set on buying a winery. He did indeed make an acquisition but it was another famed French drinks category that won both his heart and his investment, Cognac.
Duc de Fugue dates back to 1789 when its first Cognacs were distilled from wines sourced from the famed region’s Grande Champagne cru. It remained in family hands for many years, renowned for producing Cognacs for other houses rather than its own brand.
All that changed when Wang purchased the business in 2013, determined to elevate Duc de Fugue Cognac as a brand in its own right, fit to rub shoulders with the great names of the industry such as Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin, Camus and Courvoisier.
Wang is well on his way to delivering that aim, having made remarkable progress since acquiring the house. Cognac Duc de Fugue entered the Chinese market in 2016 and operations centres have been established in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The brand has earned the respect of Cognac aficionados in China and several other markets, including North America, and has also made encouraging progress in the duty free market, especially in China.
The range – from VSOP to a sublimely packaged Extra – has been extended, critical accolades (including a Citadelles du Vin Gold Medal) won and both online and offline distribution substantially extended. Cognac Duc de Fugue has 200 hectares of vineyards in the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions, ensuring it can service the brand’s long-term growth.
During my visit to Haikou for the Hainan Expo in April, Duc de Fugue opened an elegant and expansive flagship boutique with Shenzhen Duty Free at Times DF in Mission Hills, alongside industry heavyweight drinks peers such as Rémy Martin, Martell, Chivas, Hennessy and Johnnie Walker, an emphatic statement of the brand’s ambitions.
Over a superb dinner on Friday night at L’Envol – The St. Regis Hong Kong’s signature restaurant – with Roger Wang and Senior Vice President Shirley Wei, I learned more about the company’s global aspirations
Wang is a man who likes the good things in life, and it is clear he will cut no corners in positioning Duc de Fugue as a world-class Cognac brand. He sees duty free and travel retail as pivotal to that aim, a high-quality shop window serving key consumers – including outbound Chinese travellers – all around the world.
As we enjoyed a sublime six-course signature menu from multi-Michelin-starred French chef Olivier Elzer, we toasted the occasion with a bottle of Château Franc Le Maine 2015. The wine, a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, was outstanding, rich and powerful but perfectly balanced, its finish as long as the Hong Kong night.
Roger Wang might have bought a winery such as this. But fate decreed that his choice would turn to another great love instead. As a result, this distinguished Cognac house is surely set for a rich and storied future.