Bottle #70: Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac

Jun 25, 2024

Bottle #70 is Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac. Rémy Martin is one of the “Big Four” Cognac houses that dominate production. One of the most obvious things that distinguishes it from the other Cognacs I’ve discovered in Grandma’s collection is that the company that makes it was actually founded by Frenchmen! Bottle #7: Martell’s founder was an Englishman, and Bottle #19: Hennessey’s was Irish.

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Rémy Martin, on the other hand, was founded in 1724 by Rémy Martin and his father-in-law, Jean Geay. In 1924 their descendent Paul Rémy Martin died without any family to inherit, and the business passed into the hands of his business partner André Renaud. The Renaud family has remained the major stockholder and been closely involved ever since. In 1990 they merged with the company behind Bottle #50: Cointreau to form the Rémy-Cointreau group. The two families had already merged in another way, since one of Andre Renaud’s daughters married a member of the Cointreau family in 1946.

Rémy Martin has very little vineyard property of their own, and instead works with a network of producers who grow the grapes. This isn’t unique to them; most Cognac houses do not make all of their own wines. But in the 1960s Rémy Martin founded the Fine Champagne Alliance, a large cooperative of producers they purchase from. And they’re not just buying wine. These producers also distill the initial eau-de-vies (unaged brandies) to their specifications before passing them on to be aged and ultimately blended by Rémy Martin.

Compared to other spirits, this seems kind of bonkers. It would be like Jim Beam asking the corn farmers to distill the white whiskey, and then taking over at the aging step. In most other kinds of spirits, centralized control is key to creating a house style. But this is just one of the ways that Cognac is so different than other kinds of spirits: it’s all about the aging and blending. A single bottle of Rémy Martin will contain brandy from multiple years and multiple producers.

One thing all those grapes have in common is that they can come from only two of the six Cognac sub-regions. These are confusingly called Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, although they have nothing to do with the sparkling wine we celebrate with on New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, these two regions have produced the most sought-after wines for distilling into Cognac. If a Cognac has only grapes from those two regions AND at least 50% of them are from Grande Champagne, then that Cognac is permitted to be called a Fine Champagne Cognac.

Since 1948 all of the Cognac produced by Rémy Martin has met this minimum standard. And some lines, like the much lauded and outrageously expensive Louis XIII, are 100% sourced from Grande Champagne. That Cognac is sold in special crystal decanters and retails for $4000-$5000 for a regular size bottle. My research indicates that they did and still do make minis of Louis XIII. Now THAT would be an awesome discovery from Grandma’s collection. Barring that, apparently Total Wine will be happy to deliver one to me for just $820 as of this writing.

My bottle is labeled VSOP. It’s most likely from the first half of the 1980s, based on metric measurements, alcohol level in ABV rather than proof, and differences made to the brand’s look later in the 80s. Based on the other brandies I’ve tried so far, I’m expecting this to be perfectly delightful to sample.

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Bottle #70: Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac

Jun 25, 2024 |

Bottle #70 is Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac. Rémy Martin is one of the “Big Four” Cognac houses that dominate production. One of the most obvious things that distinguishes it from the other Cognacs I’ve discovered in Grandma’s collection is that the company that makes it was actually founded by Frenchmen! Bottle #7: Martell’s founder was an Englishman, and Bottle #19: Hennessey’s was Irish.

Rémy Martin, on the other hand, was founded in 1724 by Rémy Martin and his father-in-law, Jean Geay. In 1924 their descendent Paul Rémy Martin died without any family to inherit, and the business passed into the hands of his business partner André Renaud. The Renaud family has remained the major stockholder and been closely involved ever since. In 1990 they merged with the company behind Bottle #50: Cointreau to form the Rémy-Cointreau group. The two families had already merged in another way, since one of Andre Renaud’s daughters married a member of the Cointreau family in 1946.

Rémy Martin has very little vineyard property of their own, and instead works with a network of producers who grow the grapes. This isn’t unique to them; most Cognac houses do not make all of their own wines. But in the 1960s Rémy Martin founded the Fine Champagne Alliance, a large cooperative of producers they purchase from. And they’re not just buying wine. These producers also distill the initial eau-de-vies (unaged brandies) to their specifications before passing them on to be aged and ultimately blended by Rémy Martin.

Compared to other spirits, this seems kind of bonkers. It would be like Jim Beam asking the corn farmers to distill the white whiskey, and then taking over at the aging step. In most other kinds of spirits, centralized control is key to creating a house style. But this is just one of the ways that Cognac is so different than other kinds of spirits: it’s all about the aging and blending. A single bottle of Rémy Martin will contain brandy from multiple years and multiple producers.

One thing all those grapes have in common is that they can come from only two of the six Cognac sub-regions. These are confusingly called Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, although they have nothing to do with the sparkling wine we celebrate with on New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, these two regions have produced the most sought-after wines for distilling into Cognac. If a Cognac has only grapes from those two regions AND at least 50% of them are from Grande Champagne, then that Cognac is permitted to be called a Fine Champagne Cognac.

Since 1948 all of the Cognac produced by Rémy Martin has met this minimum standard. And some lines, like the much lauded and outrageously expensive Louis XIII, are 100% sourced from Grande Champagne. That Cognac is sold in special crystal decanters and retails for $4000-$5000 for a regular size bottle. My research indicates that they did and still do make minis of Louis XIII. Now THAT would be an awesome discovery from Grandma’s collection. Barring that, apparently Total Wine will be happy to deliver one to me for just $820 as of this writing.

My bottle is labeled VSOP. It’s most likely from the first half of the 1980s, based on metric measurements, alcohol level in ABV rather than proof, and differences made to the brand’s look later in the 80s. Based on the other brandies I’ve tried so far, I’m expecting this to be perfectly delightful to sample.

Want even more My Tiny Bottles? Patreon supporters get access to bonus content, behind the scenes information, monthly cocktail recipes and more. Become a free member or paid supporter here!

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