Cognac Tasting at L’Atelier de Courvoisier, Harrods:
Downstairs at Harrods, the tasting room has been turned into a ‘unique re-imagining’ of the Courvoisier cellar in Jarnac. One wall lined with the Eaux de Vie that are used to create Courvoisier, another with a unique piece of art work, the third with historic bottles and some of the tools used to make cognac.
The Alchimie de Courvoisier experience starts with a cocktail – the St Helena welcome cocktail, which is a mix of fresh cucumber juice and celery bitters, lemon juice, champagne syrup and a good measure of Courvoisier VSOP. Topped with a garnish of frozen white grapes, a lovely refreshing way to begin.
For me, much of the magic of this event was in the enthusiasm and passion of Rebecca Asseline, the Brand Ambassador for Courvoisier and master blender master blender Patrice Pinet. As we enjoyed ‘Le Nez de Courvoisier’ we learnt more about the complex processes and protracted timescales involved in making Courvoisier. The Cognac is made from Ugni Blanc grapes from a few growers in the Cognac region who have worked with Courvoisier for up to five generations. Grapes are pressed and fermented for 7 days before being distilled to make Eau de Vie. The Eau de Vie is put into French oak barrels to age. The wood used for the barrels comes from hand selected trees of about 200 years old, which are prized for their soft tannins and fine grain. As the cognac ages, the alcohol content decreases to 40% at which point the cognac can be blended and bottled.
Le Nez de Courvoisier paired three different foods with Courvoisier XO to demonstrate the complexity of the Cognac – the Creme Brulee, candied peel and blue flowers that distinguish this cognac. First brill sashimi marinated in vanilla and mint, then venison loin with chocolate and thyme jus and finally a tiny blood orange and French lavender cake. As promised, each taste of food brought out new subtleties in the cognac.
Finally we sampled Courvoisier Succession J.S. – a prestigious blend created to commemorate the bicentenary of the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor of France. I’m actually finding it quite hard to articulate the difference in taste, because all three of the drinks were superb. But this one was genuinely magnificent.
With just 2,500 bottles produced at a retail price of £3,500 the Cognac is presented in a beautifully handcrafted wooden replica of Napoleon’s War Chest, just 2,500 bottles of this exclusive marque were produced globally, retailing for £3,500. According to the notes we were given ‘Succession is a blend of the most refined cognacs from one of the finest Grande Champagne cru suppliers, which were offered exclusively to the Courvoisier house specifically for this particular blend and in testament to their long-standing relationship’. It did feel as if I was tasting history.
Before we left we also had a chance to take a look at the worlds oldest known Courvoisier vintage, from 1789. There, in a refrigerated glass cabinet, just by the door , was the bottle. Currently on sale for £95,000 through Harrods, representatives of the owners were on hand to explain that by choice they would prefer it sold as part of the entire collection.
And, I didn’t dare ask any more!
Alchemie de Courvoisier is at the Tasting Room in the Wine Shop on the lower ground floor of Harrods, London from Wednesday 5 December 2012 to Sunday 9 December 2012. And, if you are interested in learning more about Courvoisier, Patrice Pinet is hosting a live question and answer session at noon on 7th December. You can tweet your questions to him using the hashtag #CourvoisierMasterBlender and tag @cognac_expert or follow the conversation at Cognac-Expert
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London, SW1X 7XL