Possibly one of my most romantic destinations in France to head for in the early autumn months has to be Cognac. How do I know this – well we recently got invited to join a press trip to the House of Rémy Martin to learn a little more about this historical luxury brand, and get to try some of their fine cognacs.
Around September time Cognac`s temperatures can hit highs of 30 degrees and is typically dry. The leaves are turning and the miles of grapevine roll with the countryside every which way you turn. The reason why this land is so special (and expensive) is to do with the soil, which contains a unique type of chalk-flecked soil that reflects light and ripens the grapes. Rémy Martin only use grapes from the most respected growing regions of The Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions.
Remy are known for their range of fine cognacs, typically valued by their age. VSOP is their entry-level cognac followed by the premium XO, which is then topped by the famous Louis XIII. But more about these delicious cognacs later.
This press trip was a rare and unique opportunity to glimpse at the heritage of one of France`s most respected and noble families and an education as to the entire distillation process, which has remained the same since 1792 and is actually protected by French law.
Our tour started at Rémy HQ, a historical building in the outskirts of Cognac town, offering bundles of French charm. It` clear from the moment you step onto Rémy territory that this is a company that places history at the centre of everything they do and stand for. The company today is a shrine to the past and this is especially evident in the replica of the very first distillery that has been especially built within the HQ building. Right across the road from the main reception you`ll find the impressive Club de Rémy Martin, which has its own resident chef, Philippe Saint-Romas.
Company employees as well as the Rémy family typically use this location for important (and fine) business dinners, which is how they have done business for 300 years. The three-course lunch was a credit to the Rémy and incorporated delicate foods with matched fine wines, perfect to prepare us for the afternoon`s tour of the Estate Distillery and Ageing Cellars.
The first port of call was the impressive warehousing complex, where Rémy`s cognac is preserved and cared for by loving hands and aged casks. There were tens of thousands of oak casks draped with spider webs and filled with what must be millions of litres of the world`s finest cognac. Spiders are in fact considered sacred guardians here as they keep the unwanted insects away from causing any damage to the casks. After a detailed presentation about the entire distillation process and what makes the soil so unique, we had an insight into some of the oldest cellars containing the most prized cognac, the Louis XIII. Staff are constantly cycling from warehouse to warehouse checking the stocks and ensuring the distillation process is going to plan.
It was then back to HQ for a tasting session. We were taught the rights and wrongs of cognac tasting and were lucky enough to try 4 products in the range that were aged between 4 – 50 years.
Day 2 saw us visit some of Rémy`s partner vineyards and get a first hand view of what makes the soil so incredibly good for growing grapes. It also saw us visit the stately Rémy martin Estate Le Grollet, where the family still use as a stopover when visiting. The house itself is not open to the visitors, but we were able to get a tour of the adjoining barns, which contain extensive stocks of the precious Louis XIII cognac. This was our chance to get up and personal with the traditional distillation, storage and packaging process and was, for me, the most impressive aspect of the trip. It was like walking back into history. This was also our opportunity to try this much-hyped cognac direct from the barrel, which was well worth the wait.
If you are considering a get away to Cognac then adding in a tour around the Rémy Estate, especially Le Grollet is well worth the effort, especially if you are lucky enough to get to try the merchandise too!
Don`t forget – Rémy Martin will be opening its first members club, La Maison Rémy Martin, for only two weeks only from the 25th November – 6th December, which will be located on 19 Greek Street in Soho. The exclusive club will include two bars featuring Rémy Martin cognacs, a program of creative workshops and the opportunity to meet London’s talented craftsman.
Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
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