Baptiste Loiseau talks to us about the art of making cognac
How did you end up as the youngest cellar master?
I had the chance to take the position of the cellar master of the house in 2014 after seven years of training under the previous cellar master, a woman, Pierrette Trichet. In fact, I have been working for the house of Louis XIII since 2007. So, it took more than 10 years in the company to understand what the style of the house is, and how to make the finer blend for Louis XIII. I studied wine-making first and I’m passionate about wine, food and spirits from the Cognac region so after a few years of experience in wine-making in France and overseas, I decided to come back to my region. I had the chance to join the company 10 years ago, but 10 years ago I couldn’t imagine I would be the cellar master. Step-by-step, thanks to the transmission of the previous cellar master, I understood the selection of the eau-de-vie, the wood, and the oak trees we have to make the cask, and the final recipe to create it.
What does your day as a cellar master involve?
I have to be the guardian of the temple. When you take the position of a cellar master, you have to be aware that you have to maintain the time consistency. With eau-de-vie, they are different based on year as they are based on grapes so we have a vintage effect. Even if there is diversity in the vintage, at the end, for the clients, we have to maintain the consistency. Louis XIII was created in 1874 and it has to remain the same just like when it was created. So in the end, when making the final blend, we have to respect the style and the highlight and the place where it comes from, which in this case is Grande Champagne cognac.
How long does the process usually take?
When you take the position of the cellar master of such a prestigious house as Louis XIII, you have to prepare the future for the next generation. Now, I’m playing with eau-de-vie that has been selected by the previous generation of cellar masters. My daily mission is to select unaged eau-de-vie, just putting aside the best eau-de-vie coming from vineyards to prepare for the selection from the next generation of cellar masters. So we always say we are thinking a century ahead. So time is key when you’re the cellar master of Louis XIII.
What makes cognac so expensive?
I rely on the raw material we use to make the cognac, so people have to understand that to make cognac we have to grow white grapes only in the region that is defined by the law and is allowed to make cognac. If it is made in another region of the world, it cannot be named cognac, it will be brandy. So the terroir – the soil, the climate, the people who grow the grapes, who make the wine. And it’s the quality of the raw material. Rain, for example, makes it cheaper to grow. The second is ageing. Unlike others, for Louis XIII cognac, we talk about the eau-de-vie that is selected based on its highest potential for ageing. So when you have to wait to have all these aromas — this takes a lot of time, actually decades. And, as we know, time is money.
What’s the best way to enjoy a glass of cognac?
There isn’t just one way to appreciate cognac. For Louis XIII, it’s the concentration of time and fragrance of time that you will be tasting. You have to enjoy it at the right moment, with the right people and really, you have to let yourself go and take the time to appreciate all the layers of aroma in the blend. It really is a question of experience.