Quick Sips — 03 February 2012
Wine and Spirits: Cognac

The Cellar Master stands on the eighth floor of the Soho Beach House looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. Having admired the view, Pierrette Trichet turns to the table and a sight almost as inspiring: a handmade Baccarat crystal carafe of Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac.

“Louis XIII is an assemblage of 1,200 eaux-de-vie,” she says, taking a seat. “The youngest 40 years old, the oldest 100.” The grapes grow in Grande Champagne, she explains, a region in southwestern France known for its chalky soil. The cognac is then aged in casks made from oak from the Limousin region.

Madame Trichet grew up farther south, and then studied biochemistry at university in Toulouse. She worked in the lab at Rémy Martin – the producers of Louis XIII – for over two decades, joined the “tasting committee,” and then became, in 2003, the Cellar Master – the first woman at any major cognac producer to hold that title.

But to hear her talk, it isn’t about one individual Cellar Master, but the continuum, the tradition passed down from generation to generation. “When you drink a glass,” she says, “there is a century of knowhow in your hand.” She seems not so much to be promoting a product but perpetuating an ideal.

“Your predecessor gives you the recipe to keep it the same,” she says. “The heritage is transmitted.”

She pours the cognac, waits, then puts her nose to the glass, not too close. “You smell floral notes,” she says, pulling away. “Like jasmine.”

She brings her nose closer, and now receives a register of fruits: plums, figs, also walnuts.

For the third “nose” she “dives in” and finds “the soul of Louis XIII: vanilla, ginger, mushrooms, things from the woods.”

Then she lifts the glass to her mouth and takes a sip of the elixir that embodies, in her words, “perfection between aromas and tastes.”

She doesn’t swish it around in her mouth. “You don’t have to,” she explains. “The warmth reveals all the aromas.”

After another sip she says: “You’ll leave with Louis XIII in you. Your olfactory memory will hold it. There is a lasting impression – it stays with you.”

Then she sits back with a look of contentment.

 

–THOMAS SWICK

http://youtu.be/mjFLPNMPVJ0

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