It was my Birthday on Wednesday and we had cleared our schedule for the day so we could have a ‘day out’. After 20 years of living in the Fin Bois region of Cognac we have visited many of the large names – Otard, Martell and our favourite – Hennessey but since Hennessey is closed for the summer this year we thought we’d try one we had never been to before and a little harder to get to – Rémy Martin.
It is located just a few km from the center of Cognac, on an industrial estate. The web site recommends booking a tour in advance and indeed if you just turn up there didn’t seem anyway of accessing the reception as the gates appeared to be kept locked, security also was quite tight with hand bags being checked on entering – very different to Hennesseys relaxed ‘open door’ shop and tour reception area. Still we had booked so were let in by the security guard. We were on the 11am English tour and there was another at 1.30pm. The 1.30pm tour seems to be a regular event but the 11am one is ‘on demand’ depending on numbers of anticipated or booked visitors.
The tour lasts 1hr30 which is split into a 1hr tour and then 30 mins in the tasting room and shop. We had heard there you tour on a ‘train’ which goes into the vines – we thought this might be a great Cognac tour for our guests at our La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies family friendly holiday cottages since most have young children so a tour about Cognac needs to be fast moving and visually stimulating enough to keep the children happy whilst Mum and Dad learn about this delicious drink ! The Hennessey tour starts with a boat ride across the river and the Remy train ride sounded just as good !
Our guide Max was excellent, he spoke perfect English with a wonderful accent. He regularly asked if we had understood and made a point of saying we must tell him if we don’t – I suspect they receive numerous complaints from foreign tourists moaning that the tour guides don’t speak perfect English – likely a reflection of the ignorant tourist rather than the tour guides. The tour started with a description of the Cognac region, terroir and the history of the Rémy Martin company, a company founded in 1724 by a young wine grower in the region and is now in its 5th generation. We took our ‘train’ which actually turned out to be a row of electric carts which we hopped on and off throughout the tour as it took us to the different ‘chai’ on the large estate. We did pass some vines located on the estate, but just a few – we have far more within a short walk of our family holiday cottages.
We were told about the barrel making process, visited one of their many chai and told about the ageing process and also visited their oldest chai filled with barrels containing eau de vies over 100 years old and from which they make their most prestigious Louis 13th Cognac at 2600€ a bottle – we didn’t get to taste this one ! They do however do a Louis 13th tour which is by appointment only and includes a full day including a gourmet lunch and of course a tasting of this very special Cognac – I suspect it costs a little more than our 18€ ticket.
Our tour ended with a tasting of their VSOP and XO cognacs which were each paired with an ‘amuse bouche’ – A parmesan galette with roquefort cream for the VSOP and a divine passion fruit macaroon with chocolate filling with the XO – they really worked well together with the Cognacs. The children were given a fresh orange juice with some biscuits and a few sweets.
All in all we had a lovely day. It was a professional tour including everything you needed to know about Rémy Martin and Cognacs in general however although our children aged 12 and 9 were welcome (and free) and the tour held their interest, for much younger children it wasn’t as visually stimulating (for little ones) or as fast moving as the Hennesey tour and the ‘train’ wouldn’t hold muster with even the youngest of kids !
content by Wendy Blakeman