Vinexpo is usually covered by Max and Sophie, but unfortunately they couldn’t be there this year, so it was an honor to be able to visit on their behalf.
I had heard how big Vinexpo was, but until this year I had never managed to visit. With only a day to see as many cognac houses as I could, I knew that I had a challenge on my hands, but was confident … until I arrived and saw just how big the exhibition was! 10 minutes studying the very large map on the wall, with list of hall numbers and stand numbers in hand and I was off, to run the cognac gauntlet of Vinexpo 2015.
As much as I would have liked to speak to more of our great cognac houses, this was of course not possible in the time frame. I did, however, speak to many to find out what new products have been launched, not to mention having the pleasure in sampling numerous excellent cognacs!
My first stop was Laurent Jouffe where I met the Jouffe family who own and run the business. This is a traditionally run house with a modern and contemporary approach to cognac. I first saw their impressive display case of eight mini bottles of cognac and brandy before being introduced to the Extra Grande Champagne 1st Cru, that is presented with a blue and silver gift box.
The wooden cap is made with the same wood as the barrels; a lovely touch. Laurent Jouffe concentrate on the fruit, creating sweet, fruity and mellow cognacs that are designed to appeal to men and women of any age.
I had the pleasure in tasting the XO Laurent Jouffe, Grande Champagne, 1st Cru, which was very smooth and easy to drink; a great blend that incorporates woody, truffle and spicy notes of a good XO that develops on the palate wonderfully. This was my first experience of Laurent Jouffe cognac first hand and it was an absolute delight.
CAMUS Cognac have a long and distinguished history in the world of cognac, and it was an honor to meet Cyril Camus in person and talk in depth with their marketing manager, Jean de Tudert. We discussed (and tasted) two CAMUS cognacs in particular: Camus Borderies VSOP and Camus Extra Dark & Intense.
The CAMUS Borderies VSOP really is a cognac that appeals to people who don’t normally drink or even think they like cognac. It is an entry cognac for new followers and is excellent for enticing new people into the wonders of cognac. This 2015 double gold award winning cognac, 100% controlled from start to finish by CAMUS, has been created for the traditional market: restaurants, shops etc. with the aim of getting fantastic products back into the hands of the French consumer. As Jean de Tudert said, “You have to be strong at home”. All of this made complete sense after tasting CAMUS Borderies VSOP, which was typical of the Borderies in its floral and aromatic nature, smooth with orange and a touch of spice. Very drinkable indeed!
I was then introduced to the latest release, CAMUS Extra Dark & Intense, which has been launched fifteen years after the internationally acclaimed Extra Elegance cognac. The brief given by Cyril Camus for this complex, bold and intense blend was that it had to have complete respect for the CAMUS style. Its name sums up perfectly what you get: the dark side of Extra, with inspiration coming from the perfume world.
The decanter, designed in 2000, was created under Cyril Camus’ desire for it to be pure, and that it certainly is; an extremely simple and elegant decanter that reflects its contents perfectly. CAMUS Extra Dark & Intense was a new release for Vinexpo in terms of it being on the open market for the first time. The best barrels of Extra Cognac went through a special ageing process to produce this extremely rich, nutty, buttery, spicy, chocolaty, robust cognac that really does add another dimension to the Extra cognacs on the market. Wow, what a superb cognac!
An extremely busy stand as you can imagine, but at last I managed to sit down with Charles Braastad, Directeur Général of Delamain Cognac. Being a fine producer of only Grande Champagne XO quality cognacs and above, it was extremely interesting to hear Monsieur Braastad talk about how in France a new generation of young people, who are more curious, more open-minded and without preconceptions are beginning to emerge as a significant focus for Delamain cognacs.
Monsieur Braastad then showed me the new big Delamain bottles that have been created for the top end of their customer base, such as Selfridges in London. Clients at this level are also requesting their own personalised bottles and labels, such as the ones shown here: one made especially for Michel Roux Jr’s 2-Michelin star restaurant La Gavroche and a regular size bottle for George Hadjikyriakos, Managing Director of Spectus Wine & Spirit merchants.
Of course how to manage and pour the cognac in an elegant way from the ginormous bottle also had to be considered and the bottle is therefore mounted in a modern pourer created by a Parisian designer. Problem solved and very impressive indeed!
I was finally introduced to the Delamain Millésime 1973 Grande Champagne cognac and I was very pleased to hear that next year the 1976 will be bottled, so I can buy myself the perfect 40th birthday present if I reserve one of the few available to the UK soon that is!
The importance of mixology in the cognac world has been growing for some years now and cognac houses have been creating their own cocktail recipes to engage the younger generation of cognac drinkers. Meukow Cognac is taking this concept to the next level and is the first to do so.
Speaking to the most affable and welcoming Philippe Coste, President of Meukow Cognac, opened my eyes further to how the cocktail movement is growing and becoming core business for some. Monsieur Coste explained how cocktails are really important for spirit education in France, but there isn’t an avenue for this to take place. He also pointed out that from the top 15 or 20 most drunk cocktails, there is not one with cognac as the base spirit and this is something that obviously needs to change.
BREAKING NEWS: The first Cocktail Store in Paris!
At the end of September this year (date to be confirmed) Philippe Coste will be officially opening the first cocktail store in Paris. Meukow Cognac will be (alongside other brands including Jaegermesiter, Tangara gin and Santiago de Cuba rum) where cocktails and mixology are given a real space. The spirits will be promoted and the consumer educated through the cocktails.
There isn’t a store in France that really specializes in spirits and this will redress this issue. This concept has never been seen before and it will also be highly interactive for visitors. Guest stars will be invited to Le Comptoir Major – bartenders and chefs for example. There will also be an emphasis on food pairings for consumers to engage with.
A further unique move is the cocktail specific boxes that have been created for each brand, each of which has an iconic cocktail created for it. The box contains every ingredient required to make the cocktail. To associate a spirit brand with a specific cocktail name is again a totally new concept, and a very exciting one I hasten to add!
Meukow Cognac will be associated with cocktail ’90 Shades of Green’, which comprises Cognac Meukow 90 proof, basil, agave syrup, lemon juice and pear juice. I can testify first hand and wholeheartedly that this is a fantastic cognac cocktail and I can’t wait to visit “Le Comptoir Major” in Paris once it is open.
Here’s the address for those of you who want to be among the first guests: “Le Comptoir Major”, 50 Rue de Rochechouart, PARIS
Tessendier & Fils / Cognac Park
Talking of the advance of the cognac cocktail generation – “I had too much to dream last night”! Well, that was the exquisite cocktail that Cognac Park Brand Ambassador Naomi Schimek from Los Angeles made for me when I arrived at their stand.
What a beautiful creation, not only in name and appearance, but it tasted superb. Perhaps even, dare I say, feminine (although I challenge a man not to enjoy every sip of it) this cocktail was almost like a cognac dessert in a glass. Light, fresh, delicately perfumed with rose, hibiscus, and jasmine.
I love the fact that although a serious business, the creativity and brilliant touches of the cognac cocktail inventors just brings smiles to everyone’s faces. With people like cognac cocktail creator Naomi Schimek and Meukow Cognac leading the way with such brilliance, flamboyance, and innovation, the cognac world can surely begin to sleep soundly at night, on the mixology front at least.
Vinexpo 2015 for Hardy Cognac was very much about the launch of their L’Eté Cognac.
Hardy L’Eté is the second in a series of four crystal decanters, all in collaboration with Lalique who design the exquisite decanters. The official launch took place at the group’s own and newly renovated 19th-century château, the Château Lamothe-Bergeron, in Cussac-Fort-Médoc on Sunday 14th June. You can read all about the launch in more detail here.
Hardy’s signature is ‘Haute couture for Cognac and like the great couturiers, Maison Hardy crafts rare and precious items’. The House of Hardy also introduced the Fine Champagne Noces d’Argent ‘Silver Anniversary’, the latest addition to the Wedding Anniversary Series that joins the magnificent Hardy Prestige range.
A blended celebration of Grande and Petite Champagne cognacs born and distilled a quarter of a century ago. This is a distinguished and perfectly balanced cognac with aromas of raisins and tobacco leading to fine notes of honey and spices with a wonderfully long finish, as you’d expect from such a cognac – c’est fantastique!
Louis Royer Cognac is famous for its bee emblem and has been creating a wide range of quality cognacs from all six crus since 1853.
Carole Frugier, Marketing & Communications Manager at Louis Royer Cognac made me feel more than welcome as we discussed and tasted Louis Royer XO, a blend of finest eaux-de-vie from the oldest stocks of the cognac house and a cognac that has won many gold awards year after year. Louis Royer XO is a really beautiful cognac: floral, fruity, woody and spicy notes working in total harmony with each other.
I’ll be doing a tasting and review of Louis Royer Extra for Cognac Expert in the very near future, so watch this space.
It is always a pleasure to spend time with Marketing Manager Carolyn Meunier and Brand Ambassador Per Even Allaire from HINE Cognac and my visit to their stand was of course no different at Vinexpo where I was introduced to Domaines HINE Cognac Grande Champagne Bonneuil 2005.
With only 18 casks of Bonneuil 2005 selected for bottling, this is the first expression of a collection of successive harvests from Domaines HINE. The collection promises to show the purest HINE style: refined, fruity, delicate and rich. A pale golden color, aromas of ripe grapes, a hint of marmalade, gingerbread and spices entertain the nose. On the palate this reveals itself with fruity, jammy notes enriched by honey and a hint of clove. This is a beautiful cognac that showcases the great qualities of the Domaines HINE Bonneuil 2005 harvest.
At the Cognac Frapin stand it was fabulous to catch up with Cellar Master and Deputy Managing Director Patrice Piveteau and he had a treat in store for me when he presented his Multimillésime No.6. Cognac Frapin’s Multimillésime series has long been an esteemed and highly respected part of their cognac portfolio and Monsieur Piveteau’s No.6 continues this tradition, yet adds another dimension to it.
An exceptional blend of vintages 1986, 1988 and 1991 gives Multimillésime No.6 a fantastic structure. On the nose exotic fruit flavours give way to dried apricot and fig. On the palate vanilla, honey, liquorice and spices join these notes and the distinctive woody rancio charentais is also present.
Quite difficult to describe without tasting and comparing No.5 to No.6, but No.6 is completely different in terms of dimension, yet magically it still captures the entire essence of Frapin Multimillésime style. If you described No.5 as a shape it would be round, No. 6 is straight like a spear but with depth, balance and total harmony. This is a fascinating and beautiful cognac.
It was also a pleasure to just bump into a few familiar faces that included Yann Hamonou, Managing Director of Pierre Lecat Cognac and Franck Vigneron, President of Worldwide Operations for Comandon Cognac. Franck gave me a whistle stop tour of his stand and it never fails to amaze me how his innovative strategies result in so many new and diverse products. This time I was introduced to Philbert, a brand of small batch single estate cognacs and Monteru, a range of double distilled single grape variety brandies.
What a busy but exceptional day it was at Vinexpo 2015. I’m sorry that I couldn’t see everyone I wanted to, but maybe I’ll be able to go for more than a day next year – I know that I certainly didn’t want to leave!
by Michelle Brachet