PARIS (Reuters) – Cognac sales surged by a nearly a third last year as American and Chinese drinkers guzzled old vintages, in the latest sign premium drinks makers are putting the pandemic behind them.

Sales of the brandy, produced in the Cognac region of France, rose by almost 31% in value to 3.6 billion euros ($4.1 billion), industry group BNIC said on Monday.

Volumes were up 16 percent to 223.2 million bottles.

“This growth reflects a real recovery of cognac, as well as new consumption habits,” BNIC said in a statement, noting sales had also risen compared with 2019, before the pandemic struck.

The outlook should remain positive in the coming months for all destinations, BNIC added.

The news comes after France’s champagne industry said last month it expected record sales in 2021, and follows strong results from several spirits companies.

Cognac sales to its largest market, the United States, climbed 11 percent, with 115 million bottles shipped in 2021.

Sales to China, its second biggest, leapt 56 percent with 34 million bottles shipped, while European sales were up eight percent to reach 37.1 million bottles.

In late November, spirits group Remy Cointreau raised its full-year profit forecast after a better-than-expected first half, driven by strong demand for its premium cognac in China, the United States and Europe.

Pernod Ricard, which owns Martell cognac, also pointed to a jump in sales in China.

The 2021 harvest, at 867,312 hectolitres, was within the 10-year average and should support further growth for the sector, BNIC said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Mark Potter)

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Remy Martin LOUIS XIII cognac is displayed at the Remy Cointreau SA headquarters in Paris, France, January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier