RÉMY MARTIN DINNER
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Founded in 1724, Rémy Martin has been a family business for nearly three centuries. Based in the heart of Cognac, these revered spirits are made from the region’s most sought-after grapes — those coming from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. What began as a small operation by a local winegrower has grown into something beyond any reasonable expectation.
And still, quality and tradition remain integral to the company’s success. It was for this reason that we proudly partnered with them for an extraordinary one-night event this past Monday. Twelve lucky guests were treated to a four-course menu paired with a variety of different cognac expressions from Rémy Martin. It was the latest installment of our Gotham Experiences Dinner Series, and another smashing success.
WHAT EXACTLY IS COGNAC?
It’s a brandy made from grapes grown exclusively within the Cognac region of France. In fact, to be labeled cognac by the French government, all the grapes and resulting eaux-de-vie must be grown, produced, blended, and aged in the Cognac region.
The region itself is located about 250 miles southwest of Paris (just north of Bordeaux). In total, Cognac is only about 200,000 acres and nearly all of that land is still family owned. There are currently more than 1,000 different Cognac producers, of which Rémy Martin is just one. (Compare that to Napa Valley, with less than 500 producers.)
As our guests learned on Monday night, the secret to great cognac is the soil, which is known for being particularly chalky and porous. This is especially true in the heart of the region, where the Rémy grapes are grown. This unique composition imparts the grapes with unmistakable aromatics. The varietals used to make Rémy Martin cognacs are predominantly Ugni Blanc, with just a touch of Colombard and Folle Blanche.
HOW IS COGNAC MADE?
The process begins with simple grapes, allowed to ripen on the vine until the summer heat has passed. The harvest typically takes place in late September or early October. The grapes are gently pressed and the juice is left to ferment for five to seven days. The result is a white wine with an alcohol component of 7 to 9 percent. The Charentes wine, as its often referred, is dry and acidic, with no sugars added — perfect for distillation.
Interestingly enough, the qualities that make it such a poor still wine — high acidity and low alcohol — make it ideal for distillation. After the wine has fermented, it is distilled twice in Charentais copper stills (also known as an alembic), the design and dimensions of which are legally controlled.
After distillation, the resulting eaux-de-vie are aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years (or in the case of Rémy Martin, much longer). Blending the final spirit is both an art and science; each expression is meticulously crafted to capture the most sought after qualities. By law cognacs are required to be a blend of at least two eaux-de-vie. In reality dozens, if not hundreds, are blended.
Rémy Martin VSOP is marked by distinct notes of vanilla owing to the time it spends in French Limousin oak barrels. It is well-balanced and structured, with notes of apricot and baked apple, created specifically for use in cocktails. Guests on Monday night were greeted with a Gotham Sidecar created by Bar Director Jason Hedges using this VSOP.
Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal was originally blended to appeal to American and Japanese tastes. It is smoother and more mellow than the VSOP, with more pronounced notes of caramel and smoke.
Rémy Martin XO — a blend of more than 400 eaux-de-vie — offers a wide spectrum of aromas of from candied orange and plums to hazelnut and cinnamon. You’ll also find pronounced notes of white flower aromas like jasmine.
Louis XIII is the undisputed king of spirits, blended from nearly 1,200 different eaux-de-vie, the oldest of which is over 100 years old. Complex and nuanced, this was the final pairing of the evening — one that wowed each and every guest on Monday night.