KING OF CO­GNAC

Baptiste Loiseau (37), the youngest-ever Cel­lar Mas­ter in Co­gnac, is the man re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing Rémy Martin’s fa­bled Louis XIII. We find out more about him…

Destiny Man - - DOWNTIME - – EM

Where are you from and what was your first en­counter with Co­gnac?

I was born in a small vil­lage in the Grand Cham­pagne re­gion of Co­gnac, the only one of six ter­roirs from which we use se­lected grapes to cre­ate Louis XIII. Although I don’t come from a fam­ily of wine­mak­ers, I was sur­rounded by the in­dus­try and as a child, I used to eat grapes off the vine and drink the dif­fer­ent juices dur­ing har­vest sea­son. I be­came in­ter­ested in the wine and Co­gnac in­dus­try while on a tour of Rémy Martin and ended up studying agron­omy, spe­cial­is­ing in wine­mak­ing. I ex­pe­ri­enced for­eign wine­mak­ing in SA and New Zealand be­fore re­turn­ing to Co­gnac in 2005 and join­ing the Rémy Martin tast­ing team.

Did you en­counter any re­sis­tance to your ap­point­ment be­cause of your youth?

From the be­gin­ning, my men­tor and the pre­vi­ous Cel­lar Mas­ter, Pierette Triche, told me it wasn’t a ques­tion of age, but of pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion, emo­tion, tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and build­ing re­la­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers. I was cho­sen to ac­com­pany Pierette on six trips abroad be­fore she passed the ba­ton to me in 2014, but I’d had seven years of in­ten­sive train­ing un­der her and was ready. Pierette was the first fe­male Cel­lar Mas­ter in the in­dus­try, so there was al­ready a prece­dent of au­dac­ity.

What does the con­cept of legacy mean to you?

When I de­cided to come back to Co­gnac, I never imag­ined I’d be­come Cel­lar Mas­ter – it’s a dream job. Legacy is part of my mis­sion. In my daily work, I pay tribute to the her­itage and crafts­man­ship that go into a Co­gnac us­ing eaux-de-vie which are over 100 years old and the Cel­lar Masters who came be­fore me. I of­ten talk to the four who are still alive to find out what hap­pened decades ago. I make sure I don’t di­min­ish the qual­ity, as these eaux-de-vie will be se­lected long af­ter I’m gone. At the same time, there’s room for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. We look at new steps in the pro­duc­tion process to en­sure the next gen­er­a­tion knows how to man­age change and the im­pact of cli­mate change. Pierette Trichet se­lected rare cask lim­ited edi­tions in 2009 in an­other mark of in­no­va­tion.

What makes the flag­ship Louis XIII Co­gnac spe­cial?

Louis XIII is re­ally about the transmission be­tween gen­er­a­tions of Cel­lar Mas­ter. Ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of Cel­lar Masters blended 1 200 of the old­est – from 40 to over 100 years in age – and finest Cog­nacs to cre­ate a liq­uid master­piece, Only 1-2% of the thou­sands of eaux-de-vie have the po­ten­tial to be­come part of a Louis XIII, which is a cut above the rest, the cli­max of qual­ity – the king of Cog­nacs. Since 1874, the bac­carat crystal de­can­ter has re­mained the same to highlight the su­pe­ri­or­ity of the spirit – it’s a piece of his­tory in it­self. We even had renowned French de­signer Christophe Pil­let cre­ate spe­cial glasses to add to the sense of cer­e­mony that comes with tast­ing Louis XIII.

You spent time in Stel­len­bosch early in your ca­reer. How did it com­pare with France?

My fas­ci­na­tion with SA be­gan as a teenager, when I read nov­els by André Brink and JM Coet­zee. I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture and learn more about the lo­cal wine­mak­ing in­dus­try. SA was ex­tra­or­di­nary in terms of both wine­mak­ing tech­nique and cul­ture. The peo­ple were in­cred­i­bly happy to have a young stu­dent from France learn to deal with grapes grown in a dif­fer­ent cli­mate. The cel­lars are much hot­ter here and the wines are bold, con­cen­trated and full of sun.

What do you do in your time away from the cel­lar?

I’m a wine-lover, so I of­ten par­tic­i­pate in tast­ings. When I travel for plea­sure, I tend to favour moun­tain­ous ar­eas. I love noth­ing more than pack­ing my hik­ing shoes and back­pack and spend­ing time in the coun­try­side.

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