oak barrel of cognac
Turning the finest grapes into harmonious cognacs since 1724.

the grape is the heart and soul of cognac. This noble fruit sets this spirit apart from others, giving it exceptional aromas. The secret to the most aromatic grapes lies in the soil in which the vines grow. At Rémy Martin, we only use grapes from the highest-quality growing regions, or crus—the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. These two crus are characterized by exceptionally chalky soil, which reflects sunlight and ripens the grapes to absolute perfection. The grape varieties used in our cognac are predominantly Ugni Blanc, with a touch of Colombard and Folle Blanche.

manufacture of a oak cognac barrel
These subtleties in flavor are not only recognized by growers but also by French law. Cognac Fine Champagne, made exclusively from eaux-de-vie of the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, of which at least 50% come from Grande Champagne, is the only blend of two crus protected by the AOC, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

The Grape Harvest

To assure the required amounts of highest quality grapes year after year, Rémy Martin formed an alliance with the winegrowers and distillers of Fine Champagne back in 1966. Still standing today and one of its kind, the Alliance Fine Champagne established strong long-term relations between the House and its suppliers on the basis of an equal partnership. This means we can work closely with the roughly one thousand winegrowers in the alliance, advising them on how to meet our standards and ensuring that the expertise and craftsmanship honed over three centuries are passed on.

The harvest takes place once the summer heat has faded, between the end of September and early October. The grapes are gently pressed and the juice is left to ferment for five to seven days. The result is white wine with an alcohol component of 7 to 9 percent, dry and acidic, with no sugars added — perfect for distillation.

Oak of cognac left to age
"I go to the vineyards to taste the grapes. This is the beginning of the story."

Distillation Process

Oak of cognac left to age

Distillation takes place after harvest, approximately from October to March. We distil the wines with their lees—the residual yeast—in small copper stills to produce an intense spirit with more depth and aromatic intensity than modern large-scale methods would yield. This approach also helps maintain consistency in flavor. Each batch is distilled twice over, a process that takes approximately 24 hours. Lengthy but essential to get the purest essence of the grapes’ aromas, we have used double distillation since our founding in 1724. During each distillation, the first and last results are discarded in order to capture only the clearest, most aromatic, and most balanced heart, which is a clear liquid with an alcohol component of around 70 percent called eau-de-vie (“water of life”). Twelve kilos of grapes are required to produce a single liter of eau-de-vie.

At Rémy Martin, we remain committed to these time-consuming and demanding distillation methods because they are the only way to produce the elegant eaux-de-vie that will guarantee the Rémy Martin signature style, and that have the potential to age in our cellars for years or even decades.

Eaux-de-vie Selection

After distillation, it is time to select the eaux-de-vie that will be aged in our cellars. Each year, over 1,000 winegrowers submit their eaux-de-vie for selection. To our Cellar Master, each eau-de-vie has a unique personality, possessing slightly different flavors and aromas. The challenge is to preserve the essence of Cognac Fine Champagne and to carry forward the Rémy Martin signature style.

manufacture of a oak cognac barrel

During the winter months, our tasting committee gathers several times a week to sample 20 to 30 eaux-de-vie per session. Over the course of the season, they will taste over 2,000 samples. The samples are blind, their origin confidential. The committee looks for eaux-de-vie that are fruity and rich, while not being too heavy—in other words, they look for elegance and harmony.

Certain eaux-de-vie do not possess these qualities and are rejected immediately, while others distinguish themselves as suitable to carry the Rémy Martin signature style. After this rigorous selection process, the eaux-de-vie are stored in the cellars for aging before becoming part of the future cognacs of the House.

manufacture of a oak cognac barrel
"We ask the growers to present eaux-de-vie that are fruity, rich, elegant, and delicate."

Aging Cognac

Since Fine Champagne eaux-de-vie have a superior potential for aging, we choose to age them for much longer than the minimum required by law. We use casks made from oak of the type found in the forests of Limousin, famous for the quality of its wood. Limousin oak contributes to the aromatic development of the blended eaux-de-vie by allowing a careful yet substantial exchange between the eaux-de-vie and the air inside the cellar. Thanks to its large and open grain, it imparts a rich vanilla flavor to the cognac.

The oak trees used are at least a hundred years old and have been individually selected by expert coopers working closely with our Cellar Master. Before being shaped into a cask, the wood is left outside for two to three years so the elements remove the less interesting tannins.

Oak of cognac left to age

Our cellars in Merpins store 140,000 casks of Cognac Fine Champagne eaux-de-vie, the largest collection in the world. All eaux-de-vie for our cognacs age for years, subtly adapting to their surroundings. Each cellar has a slightly different temperature and humidity, thus fine-tuning the aging environment. The type of cask also affects the process, thus, depending on the cognac it will be used for, an eau-de-vie may be changed to progressively older casks as it ages.

During the aging process, a percentage of the eaux-de-vie evaporates into the air. We call this “the angel’s share”. Approximately the equivalent of eight thousand bottles evaporates every day.

Oak of cognac left to age

The Cellar Master

Oak of cognac left to age

The position of Cellar Master was established by Monsieur Rémy Martin himself, and it commands huge respect to this day. The Cellar Master has to possess a very special combination of skills: he is at once a studied viticulturist, an experienced winemaker, an expert blender, and a taster with a sensitive nose, with a little bit of the virtuoso composer and magician thrown in for good measure. The Cellar Master not only guards the heritage of the House but also, every day, creates its future—advising the winegrowers on grapes and distillation, sampling and selecting the best eaux-de-vie, and watching over their aging. The Cellar Master is the only one who can recreate the blends for every product in our collection each year, making sure that even if the vintage and the aging vary, to the connoisseur there won’t be any difference between a bottle bought in 1987 and a bottle bought in 2017.

When Baptiste Loiseau was appointed Cellar Master in 2014, he was, at the age of 34, one of the youngest ever. He was also succeeding Pierrette Trichet, the first woman to ever hold this position at a major cognac house. So while the main responsibility of the Cellar Master is to guard the House’s heritage, at Rémy Martin we have not been very conservative about whom we charge with this duty.

“Only when you’re sure that it’s the right person do you share your secrets.”
manufacture of a oak cognac barrel

Each Cellar Master is taught by their predecessor, who preserves these mysteries until the next generation. Baptiste Loiseau was born and raised in Cognac and started out as an experimental engineer before joining Rémy Martin’s tasting committee under Pierrette Trichet. He worked with her for four years, tasting, selecting, and blending eaux-de-vie with the former Cellar Master before she decided he could be her successor and appointed him her deputy in 2011. That was when she finally opened the books to him and spent three more years teaching him all the blends. “Only when you’re sure that it’s the right person do you share your secrets,” Loiseau explains.

With Baptiste Loiseau, we began a new chapter in the story of our House, keeping the Rémy Martin legacy alive for the future.

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