Interview: Rémy Martin Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau on creating “a living memory in liquid form”

Rémy Martin Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau: “Most of the time when you celebrate an anniversary, you are only looking at what was going on before… but for us – even more so when we’re celebrating three centuries of history – we also have to share what our vision is for Rémy Martin for the next decades.”

When Baptiste Loiseau became Rémy Martin Cellar Master in 2014, seven years after joining the House, he was, at just 34, the youngest person to assume the role in the company’s history dating back to 1724. He inherited the role from Pierrette Trichet, a similarly audacious choice in that she was the first woman Cellar Master for a major Cognac house, someone Loiseau pays fond tribute to as his mentor and teacher.

That relationship offers a particularly rich context for the launch of the 300th Rémy Martin Anniversary Coupe, introduced to travel retail over recent days in Singapore and Hong Kong. For it was Trichet who created the 290th Anniversary Coupe – one of just four such celebratory blends in the House’s history – the base from which Loiseau has crafted its successor a decade on.

The 300th Rémy Martin Anniversary Coupe both inherits and bestows legacy

Both Cognacs are drawn from the Rémy Martin Réserve Perpétuelle (perpetual reserve), a precious collection of exceptional eaux-de-vie, exclusively from the Grande Champagne terroir, saved and passed forward by generations of Cellar Masters. Thanks to the preservation and enrichment of these stocks, the reserve never runs dry. “It is a kind of living memory in liquid form,” says Loiseau, speaking to The Moodie Davitt Report just before the unveiling of the 300th Anniversary Coupe at the Rosewood Hong Kong on 25 March.

‘We Dream Forward’ – Each of the 6,724 bottles is individually numbered and adorned with Rémy Martin Centaur’s javelin, the emblem of the House since 1870

{Click on the podcast icon to hear Baptiste Loiseau in conversation with Martin Moodie}

“For me, the creation of this 300th Anniversary Coupe is really the symbol of the transmission between the Cellar Masters,” Loiseau says. “This is only the fourth time that we have released an Anniversary Coupe. The first was 50 years ago in 1974, done by André Giraud. Then 25 years later, it was the 275th Anniversary Coupe by Georges Clot.

“Pierrette Trichet did the 290th Anniversary ten years ago just before retiring. She left the 290th Anniversary Coupe for me to nourish and create the 300th Anniversary Coupe. So in fact, it’s a never-ending process in which the Cellar Master at that time has to go back to the legacy left by the previous Cellar Master. But he or she can also give a nice personal touch in terms of the vision he or she has for the future of the house.”

Baptiste Loiseau with his predecessor, mentor and teacher Pierrette Trichet, who created the 290th Anniversary Coupe
Two great Cognacs with a common legacy, the Rémy Martin 290th and 300th Rémy Martin Anniversary Coupes

Only a single Magnum was released (at auction) of the 290th Anniversary Coupe, the rest of the blend left to age and evolve over the subsequent decade. For the 300th edition, just 6,724 bottles are being released (a play on the House’s 1724 origins), the balance left to develop in wood for years to come, awaiting the next anniversary and perhaps, depending on when that is, the next Cellar Master.

Loiseau recalls his honour at being named Cellar Master in 2014 (in a nice twist to this anniversary year, he also celebrates his tenth anniversary in the role next month), in the process being handed the keys to the Cognac kingdom that is the Réserve Perpétuelle. This 300th Anniversary release caps that decade in memorable style, he says.

“It’s an important milestone for the house itself, for all the employees and for all those that have been part of the history of the House,” he says. “It’s really meaningful being the Cellar Master at this period of time for such an incredible House.

“The creative process behind the 300th Anniversary Coupe is unique and really different from the Cognacs we are recreating every year – the VSOP, the XO or even Louis XIII.

Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau and Martin Moodie pose for a photo after their interview earlier this week
Several leading travel retailers attended this week’s unveiling in Hong Kong. Pictured with Martin Moodie are DFS Group Associate Director, Merchandising, Wine | Champagne | Tobacco | Head of  Prestige Fraser Wotzke (left) and DFS Group Senior Director | Global Merchandising | Spirits Wine Tobacco Food | Partnerships Daniel Licari (right)

“There is such a long history in the Réserve Perpétuelle that is totally in the DNA of the House… so that you as the Cellar Master then decide which kind of eaux-de-vie most represent your vision of what this Coupe has to be – not for yourself but for the next generation of Cellar Master… when he or she will have the right moment to create the next Anniversary Coupe.”

Rémy Martin Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau toasts the past, present and future as he welcomes guests to a sumptuous 300th anniversary dinner at the Rosewood Hong Kong

In short, I suggest, Loiseau is not only inheriting legacy but also creating it. “Exactly,” he replies. “Because most of the time when you celebrate an anniversary, you are only looking at what was going on before… but for us – even more so when we’re celebrating three centuries of history – we also have to share what our vision is for Rémy Martin for the next decades.”

Baptiste Loiseau noses the 300th Rémy Martin Anniversary Coupe this week against the beautiful backdrop of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

As we chat in an elegant private room at the Rosewood Hong Kong, a glass carafe of the 300th Anniversary Coupe alongside an engraved wooden box stands on the table in front of us. The carafe, inspired by the shape of the 250th Anniversary Coupe created in 1974, is enhanced with embossed lines which symbolise the forward motion of Rémy Martin Centaur’s javelin, the emblem of the House since 1870.

That’s a nice link to the wider tricentenary celebrations throughout 2024, for which Rémy Martin has planned a flurry of activities connecting past, present and future around the theme ‘We Dream Forward’.

So how did Loiseau set about capturing three centuries of heritage in a bottle, while offering a window to the House’s future?

“For me, it all started with going back to the cellars to see how the 290th Anniversary Coupe had evolved,” he replies. Recalling the aromas of Pierrette Trichet’s masterpiece on its limited release a decade back, he returned to the maturing blend around three years ago to see how it had evolved. From there he decided what kind of eaux-de-vie – all from Grand Champagne – would best “nourish” what had gone before.

Baptiste Loiseau draws a sample from the revered Réserve Perpétuelle

In order to maintain the DNA of the house, the previous Anniversary Coupe has to form the foundation of its successor, Loiseau explains. And what a foundation he discovered; Trichet’s legacy showcasing the wondrously concentrated power of the blend, packed with the house’s signature rancio notes and redolent of candied fruit character in keeping with the base wines having been distilled on the lees.

Baptiste Loiseau drew on Pierrette Trichet’s 290th Anniversary masterpiece as the foundation for his new creation

“While Rémy Martin has always been Fine Champagne [the protected appellation for Cognac blended from the region’s two most prestigious crus, Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne -Ed], for the Anniversary Coupe the point is to celebrate and highlight the superiority of the first terroir of Cognac, which is Grand Champagne due to the ageing potential it has,” Loiseau observes.

Discovering the heritage of three centuries and the tantalising promise of the future

Who knows when the next expression will be released. Or who will be the Cellar Master. Those thoughts do not concern Baptiste but instead enrich him. For his living memory in liquid form will endure through the generations to come.

Read more from The Moodie Blog.

In his creation, he stayed true to that DNA, the ultimate blend characterised by a desire to create a balance and harmony between something intensely concentrated but still with “tension”.

“My vision for the future is really to focus and nourish our blends with some much more rigorous and precise aromas coming from the grapes and from the winemaking process,” he comments. “I wanted to… give much more fresh fruit freshness to the blend. This will also help clients and Rémy lovers to understand that it’s really this combination that makes us so singular in the Cognac appellation.

“The liquid itself has to be the hero. For me, the history behind the liquid is really embodying what we will leave for the next generation. The essence of our celebration of this 300th aniversary has to be the liquid itself, the Coupe.” {Main story continues below sidebar}

Championing Sustainable Exception

As with all Cognacs, Rémy Martin represents a convergence of the earth, the elements, the vineyards and man’s skill. Recognising that interdependence and deeply concerned about the threats to the planet posed by global warming, the House in 2007 announced a wide-ranging sustainability action plan, covering not only its vineyards, but also its wider environmental, social and economic impact.

That plan was underpinned by a deep commitment to fully sustainable agriculture. In 2012 – together with partner winegrowers of the Alliance Fine Champagne (AFC) – Rémy Martin began working towards High Environmental Value (HEV) certification with some 85% of HEV-certified farms in the Charente region working as partners of the House and of the AFC.

The company says all its growing partners are committed to sustainable agriculture with 60% already HEV-certified. “The House of Rémy Martin proudly stands for Sustainable Exception: a long-term development framework which is respectful of its environment and allows us to create an exceptional product,” it comments.

In the vineyards, where great Cognac – and a commitment to sustainability – all starts

That respect is clear from Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau’s response as I ask him how the House is adjusting to and anticipating climate change. “It’s about adapting to and preparing for how these big challenges are affecting the quality of the soil, the quality of the ripeness of the grapes etc,” he says.

“So on the Rémy Martin estate we were the first in the region to obtain the High Environmental Value certification in 2012. We encouraged all the grower partners of the House to get the certification, which is about embodying biodiversity fertilisers, how to protect the vineyards and also water supply.

“These are key to the understanding of how to maintain consistency in the terroir – even more so for us because we are only Grande and Petite Champagne, so for us terroir is key.

“The objective is to have 100% of our growers certified before 2028. That’s the beginning of the understanding on how to preserve the terroir, to adapt first, and then do some research on new cultivars.”

Working with other houses and the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, Rémy Martin is trialling new grapes such as Luminan and Coutis, monitoring how they behave in the vineyards, in the wine, in the eaux-de-vie distillation and in ageing. Long-established varieties (especially the dominant Ugni Blanc) have been ripening more quickly with a resultant loss of acidity as summers become drier and hotter.

“If they are corresponding to the style of the appellation, maybe one day they will be considered as new cultivar for Cognac,” says Loiseau. “So it’s a never-ending process. We are still learning and approaching new practices in terms of grape variety, but it’s also for us the big challenge to prepare things for the next generation.”

Does he feel the weight and responsibility of history, of those Cellar Masters who have come before him and those who will inherit his work in part or in whole? “It was really not the weight of history that I had on my shoulders. It was really for me much more about the emotion I had during the transmission with Pierrette.

“I could feel, of course, the responsibility,” Loiseau replies. “But for me, it’s just being part of a human chain. I like this image of the human chain and we are all part of it. So my responsibility, of course, is to prepare the future for the next one [Cellar Master].

“I have lots of experts in my team and all together we were finally able to achieve this goal. So it’s a huge project. But the thrill of being part of it is much more important than the weight I could have on my shoulders.“

And not just on his owm shoulders, Loiseau hastens to add. “We are speaking about the role of the Cellar Master but I also want to highlight all the wine growers that are working for the House. Of course, I am the one now who makes the blending; before it was Pierrette, and before that it was Georges and more generations of Cellar Masters will come.

“But I like to keep in mind that if we have this quality of eaux-de-vie, it’s also because of the wine growers, winemakers and master distillers.

“Finally we see the achievement of something that has been transmitted by a generation of Cellar Masters. But before that you have all the steps within the Cognac appellation, to which we must pay tribute.

“We are still a family-owned company. And so when I had the tasting with Dominique Hériard Dubreuil [Co-Owner of Rémy Cointreau and former President] for her to discover the coupe, it was a magical moment. When I had the tasting with Pierrette it was also a magical moment because you have the sensation to be part of something, but it’s not the end. It’s just the start of something for the next generation. That for me is the meaning of this Anniversary Coupe.” ✈

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