Pleasure / December 2016

Sacre Bleu: Martell Cordon Bleu Extra

As Martell celebrates a rather impressive milestone, The Rake lifts the lid on what makes its Cordon Bleu Extra something really quite special.

“Through our range of cognacs, with their high substance and history, I believe Martell makes the choice of understated luxury, whereby we focus on the very quality of our blends,” Christophe Valtaud, Cellar Master of Martell, tells me. Founded in 1715, Martell is the oldest cognac house in the world and has since it’s inception continued to deliver excellence out of the fabled Cognac region. Divided into six areas — otherwise known as crus — in the Charente region of Cognac near the Atlantic Ocean, Martell’s home is in the smallest cru, Les Borderies. Despite the grand stature of Martell and its recognition globally for the truly refined cognac, Les Borderies accounts for only five percent of Cognac’s vineyards, which Valtaud tells me is known to be a “unique terroir which adds to Martell’s elegance and subtlety.”

As you would naturally expect of someone who has the grand title of overseeing the number two selling cognac in the world, Valtaud fittingly has the amber spirit coursing through his veins. He informs me that his father and grandfather were both winegrowers: “As long as I can remember I have been in the vineyards in Cognac, so it was very natural to keep building on my heritage, and extend my expertise.” After graduating with a doctorate in biochemistry, molecular biology and plant physiology, the perspicacious and polymathic Cognac native joined the house of Martell in 2011 and became their Cellar Master earlier this year. With a clear mission in mind and all his sensorial powers in tune, he carefully calculates and develops an exceptionally fine cognac that’s critically acclaimed and consumed worldwide.

With just over 300 years of profound history and heritage, Martell has perfected the craft of alchemy to create a product which Valtaud says has been “recognised for its quality, has reached legendary status and is enjoyed by high society’s most recognisable names, members of royal families and consumed at official celebrations,” says Valtaud. The prestige of Martell is the result of the celebrated smoothness that is attributed to the initial stages of picking the finest and most rare grapes from Les Borderies. The Trebianno grapes — known as Ugni Blanc in France — are picked by hand and carefully inspected. Due to the chemical make-up of the soil, they contain high levels of acidity, yielded by the sun-blessed, rich land and plentiful ocean breeze, which enriches the character and complex array of floral aromas of Martell’s cognac.

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Benedict Browne

Benedict is The Rake's Associate Style Editor.