THE HOUSE OF HINE
A FINE COGNAC PURVEYOR
See also: Cognac
Thomas Hine was an English adventurer who settled in France in 1791 to seek his fortune. Almost immediately after taking up residence, the French police imprisoned him as a suspected spy during the Revolution. After his release, he married Francoise Elisabeth, the daughter of a cognac merchant. After the marriage, he started working for his father-in-law’s business and learned the intricacies of the art of blending, packaging and marketing.
In 1817, Thomas Hine felt ready to start his own cognac business with the objective to produce the best quality possible and purchased his father-in-law’s establishment. He renamed the company The House of Hine and soon acquired a reputation as a master blender. His reputation was particularly wide spread in England and his shipments increased appreciably to his former country of citizenship.
Thomas Hine, the master blender, died 1822, but the company he founded has been managed by his direct descendants ever since. Hine specializes in high end cognacs for the connoisseur.
Cognac is produced in the south-west of France in the region called Charente Maritime which is sub divided according to the chalk content of the soil, form the best to the least. The chalkier the soil the higher it is rated. The cognacs from high-chalk soils are fragrant, light and delightful.
Most of the grapes grown in the region are Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Folle Blanche and Colombard, all of which yield, thin, acid wines only suitable for distilling.
Hine specializes in blends and vintage cognacs. The French law does not recognize vintage in Cognac. Blending distillates from different vintages is designed to overcome the reality of quality variation of each harvest.
Hine Rare Fine Champagne cognac is blended from Grande- and Petite Champagne cognacs exclusively, the youngest of which is aged for six years. This fine cognac possesses floral aromas, is smooth, with a remarkably long aftertaste.
Hine Antique Fine Champagne is another blend that deserves the attention of cognac aficionados. This product is blended from the finest light, delicate, and velvety Grande- and Petite Champagne cognacs. Hine buys cognacs from small distillers and maintains a large inventory that allows the master blender to maintain Hine’s high quality standards.
The warehouses are directly behind the head office on the Charente River in Jarnac and have not changed in 250 years. It is one the oldest buildings in the town.
When favourable weather conditions yield an excellent quality of fruit, Hine sets aside a certain lot of cognac from the Grande Champagne region. After aging (minimum 20 years), under ideal conditions (80 percent humidity at 10C in winter and 20C in summer), different batches are blended and a limited amount of bottles released to an avid market. The vintage cognacs of Hine are 1953, 1957, 1960, 1975, 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Then there is the Early Landed Vintage cognac which is that Hine ships a very small amount of vintage cognac in the barrel to Bristol, England to age. Here is the humid cellars are rarely below (95 percent), the cognac ages (at 8 – 12 C) for a minimum of 20 years. In this environment, the cognac acquires fruity aromas with delicate hints of wood and a remarkable smoothness. The evaporation is much less than in Charente. Generally, two-and-a-half percent of the cognac in barrels evaporates annually.
Hine is one of the few cognac shippers that continue this tradition started in the 19th century.
An Early Landed Vintage Cognac represents a rare delicacy to the knowledgeable connoisseur. Hine has always been a small, quality conscious cognac house catering to an appreciative market segment all over the world.
Victor Hugo’s saying “Le Cognac est la liqueur des Dieux.” Has been taken literally by Thomas Hine and his descendants continue the tradition. A visit to Hine, in Jarnac, is an experience you will not soon forget.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu