After four hours of sleep, we got back into the car this morning to hit the second day at Vinexpo. Read the article about our first day, yesterday. Unusual for this time of year, it was still pouring down with rain. To make the drive even more uneventful, we got stuck in Bordeaux rush hour, which made us miss our first meeting. Hurrying to our following meeting, while desperately trying to source a coffee somewhere in the aisles, we waved hello to our pal Kim Birkedal-Hartmann, who was already serving his guests cognac at 10 in the morning!
Our first sit-down was at Frapin, where we kindly got served that much needed coffee. We briefly met Patrice Piveteau, managing director of the cognac house, before speaking to Anne Coldeboeuf about Frapin’s new products.
Anne has been a great supporter since the early days of Cognac-Expert, something we don’t forget easily. Today, she gave us one of the exclusive Frapin perfumes, a present that will most likely find its home with Sophie… They just launched their ninth perfume in two years, “Paradis Perdu”, and are preparing a repackaging for the entire range. In terms of cognac, they have a new premium Grande Champagne special blend called “Plume” that is about to hit the market in a limited edition of 500 in October, presented in a beautiful decanter.
Next up was a much-awaited encounter with Olivier Blanc, who heads Cognac Leopold Gourmel. He developed the brand when he was 21, incredibly visionary at the time – and still with an extreme enthusiasm for his product. He explained us in detail why Gourmel is a cognac that is different to other brands, placing a lot of emphasis on being a product of modern times.
What we didn’t know is that Leopold Gourmel does not use standard young Limousin oak for their barrels, but much older oak from other regions in France. Similarly unusual for the world of cognac is that Olivier is not interested in categorizing his cognacs by age (VS, VSOP, XO, etc.), but by ‘carats’, a term he secured as a trademark. You’ll find a 6, 10, 20, or even 30 carat cognac at Gourmel instead. Most importantly though, the range just got a revamp, which shows how much Olivier is aware of current trends. Also he felt that he needed a change, after fourty years of more or less the same look. Understandable…although we did get a little sentimental.
Thankfully there were no long waits during lunchtime, as tables and chairs outside were soaking wet and people were frantically running back and forth under shared umbrellas, but we opted for a quick sandwich anyway, in order to be on time to meet with Laclie.
Katie Thomassin welcomed us at Maison Laclie’s rather funky, darkly lit stand, which was resonating with lounge music. She showed us their different products, amongst which the new identity of their range Leopold Raffin from VS to XO Extra, as well as a Honey Liqueur on the base of cognac. An interesting bottle, we thought, was the Sauternes Cask Finish, a Cognac that gets moved from its oak barrels to barrels from bordelaise Sauternes barrels for the last 8 to 10 months of its ageing process. This adds a natural sweetness to the cognac, and definitely a twist that we hadn’t tasted before.
Then we ran back to the other end of the hall again, where we had rendez-vous with another big-time supporter, and the man with the most beautiful eyes in Cognac (says Sophie): Remi Boinaud of De Luze. Remy told us that they are reintroducing the original family brand Cognac Dupont, which was founded in 1878. He made us taste the Dupont “Extra”, which was truly outstanding in quality, promising a successful launch of this new venture later on in the year.
They are still working on the design, but we managed to get some first teasers … Looking good!
It was good to pass by Chateau de Montifaud, and see the new exclusive bottle they are presenting: “Heritage Maurice Vallet”, an extremely old cognac named after the founder of the cognac house, and blended from eaux-de-vie dating back to 1898. That’s more than 100 years old, pretty amazing to imagine Vallet distilling wine back in those days…
Next up was Cognac HINE, definitely amongst our favorites. And they showed us their new 250th Years Edition!
Francois Le Grelle, who must have the driest humor in the industry was there to greet us together with his wonderful team. We sat down to show them the first video in our series of cognac houses that we visit. This will be online this Thursday, just on time to coincide with HINE’s 250th anniversary celebration in Jarnac. In return, they showed us a short clip about their new high-end product, which they produced on this occasion. “HINE 250”, a 1953 Vintage Cognac (of course), comes in a beautiful Putman decanter made from Baccarat crystal and presented in a wooden box lined with cork – truly celebrating the cognac house in style. Discover the HINE 250 Years Cognac in our shop. We look forward to this event on Thursday evening!
Our final meeting was with Pierre Vaudon at Francois Voyer. Like two years ago, Pierre was incredibly informative to talk to. He has a profound knowledge of the industry, making the conversation about markets, products, bottling, and design highly interesting. He presented us with a newly packaged Francois Voyer “Extra”. The Extra, Max thought, has a remarkable nose (totally in love) slightly spicy on the palate, round – with a solid finish.
And that was it for today…still pouring down with rain, we head back to Cognac to enjoy an evening in front of the fireplace and have a relaxing dinner with our father.
To all you cognac lovers out there: Vinexpo is really worth a visit! We’ll be back with more from our third and final day tomorrow.