Rémy Martin’s Cellar Master, Baptiste Loiseau, on coronavirus, climate change and cultivating the world’s most celebrated cognac

Born and raised in France’s famous winemaking region, Baptiste Loiseau is the youngest person ever to be appointed a Cellar Master in all of Cognac

In partnership with: Rémy Martin

As only the fifth cellar master of Rémy Martin, Loiseau’s job to guarantee the consistent quality of the company's cognacs 

27 May 2020

If Baptiste Loiseau looks a little young to be heading up what is essentially the quality and control division of the world’s best-known cognac company, that’s because he is. Turning 40 this September, Loiseau was just 34 when, in 2014, he became cellar master of Rémy Martin, making him the youngest cellar master in cognac history.

A native of the Cognac region in south-west France, Loiseau joined Rémy Martin in 2007 as an agricultural engineer and oenologist, before being promoted to deputy cellar master in 2011. He completed his apprenticeship under the tutelage of previous cellar master Pierrette Trichet, the first female cellar master of a major cognac house.

Loiseau has since launched Rémy Martin’s Carte Blanche – a limited edition cognac selected from a single vat said to epitomise the brand’s house style – and continues to oversee the production of Louis XIII, one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive eaux-de-vie.

Firstly, Luxury London hopes that you and your family have been keeping well during these challenging times. How has the coronavirus pandemic effected production at the House of Rémy Martin?

Since the beginning of the crisis, the House of Rémy Martin has been fully mobilised to support healthcare players in the fight against Covid-19. This crisis has had a strong impact on our production, but the priority has always been the health of our employees and citizens. Therefore, we took the decision to close all our production and industrial sites on Tuesday 17 March to supply neutral alcohol for producing hydroalcoholic gel for pharmacies, doctors and hospitals. And since 14 April, our production site based in Cognac has gradually resumed its activities in the best possible conditions for the safety of employees. 

How does the current climate compare to challenges you’ve faced in the past?

We are a House that has been going through crises for almost 300 years. When there is a crisis, we need to react and adapt quickly: each time together and with solidarity.

What has Rémy Martin been doing to mitigate the effects on Covid-19?

In this emergency situation, our priority is to work on large-scale initiatives of general interest to participate in the national and international effort. Our teams have spontaneously committed to implement solidarity actions, focusing mainly on the delivery of alcohol and masks, but also by supporting their communities and populations, made fragile by the current situation, in particular our bartender colleagues.

Locally, our Cognac production site is supplying neutral alcohol to healthcare players, so that they can produce hydroalcoholic gel for pharmacies, doctors and hospitals in the region. Many of our employees were volunteered to repackage the alcohol in containers for easier use before delivery. We have also provided personal protective equipment such as surgical and FFP2 masks to the hospitals in Cognac and Saintes. Since the beginning of this crisis, it seemed essential for us to embody our values, to show solidarity and mutual aid.

Do you foresee a knock-on effect on supply once things return to normal?

The OECD Secretary General explained that the world economy will suffer "for years" from the impact of the coronavirus. This crisis will indeed have a strong impact on our supply. However, we remain confident about our ability to get through this sanitary crisis and to emerge from it even stronger.

How much pressure comes with the historic role of Cellar Master of the House of Rémy Martin?

I wouldn’t say pressure. I think of it as a privilege because I was born and raised in the Cognac region. I studied to become a winemaker but I had no idea I would come back to the region of Cognac. So when I had the chance to join what is considered the most prestigious house in the region, in terms of quality and history, I considered it a great honour.

What have been the most significant technological changes in the cognac industry in the past two decades?

As a result of climate change, we have to be increasingly adaptable – we have to spend more time anticipating what the future will bring. We have faced some very difficult vintages because the grapes have been ready so much sooner – we had to adapt the date of harvest, the fermentation, the distillation. We’ve also had to change the way we are producing the grape, in order to preserve it for the next generation. We are concentrating more on experimentation.

How concerned are you about the potential effects of global warming?

We have a very long history in the Cognac region. We have already faced some very big challenges, with harvests and terroir and difficult weather dating back more than a century. We have a team of three scientists in my team dedicated to experimenting on grapes, on new terroir, on environmental practises, how to adapt fermentation, the yeast we use in the fermentation, so I’m very confident. Of course, we’ve got to try and lower our own environmental impact, too.

How do you hope to do this?

Firstly, by preserving water sources, by recycling the hot water produced in the distillery. Then by having an approach in the vineyards based on more observations, measures and experiments to adapt our practices to the conditions of the year, and the status of the vine itself. Reaching the best ratio between the number of grapes and the shadow given by the leaves, to preserve the acidity.

How has the profile of the typical Rémy Martin customer changed in recent years?

Perhaps in the way our clients are approaching the House. They are more and more aware of who we are, much more precise in the type of questions they ask. The understand about our terroir and about the way we make all the cognac in our range. And because they understand it more, they are more playful with our cognac and more appreciative of it. There’s been a switch between a traditional type of consumption to something that is more lifestyle led.

Such as Rémy Martin being used in cocktails?

Yes. There’s been a move to mixology and food pairings which the younger generation find easy to understand. We are brand with almost 300 years of heritage, but you can respect that heritage while still having fun with the sort of premium cognac we produce.  

Why does Rémy Martin enjoy such a distinguished reputation?

We are a cognac producer in the most central growing area of Cognac, also called Fine Champagne, something that a wine and spirit expert really understands. We were founded in 1724 by a wine grower called Rémy Martin and are still family owned, which is not the same with the other wine houses. The founder himself was a wine grower and I think that truth and transparency has always been part of our DNA. I think that really resonates with our clients.

Where and when is your favourite place to drink Rémy Martin?

Right now, at home! But I usually like to drink Rémy at home anyway, with friends. I like making cocktails – I like to see people playing with Rémy Martin, making Sidecar cocktails for example. I like the interaction that comes between people during the tasting moment – when they discover what they like, which aromas they can smell. I like to go to bars where the bartender is using Rémy Martin to make cocktails and explain my own tastes and see how they will create a cocktail that matches my palate.

Of the initiatives you’ve worked on as Cellar Master so far, which are you proudest?

Two years ago, after two years of work with my team, in September 2018, we built a new winery on our estate where we grow our own ugni blanc to make our grande champagne eau-de-vie. After two years of planning and researching what would be the best quality pressing machines and other factors, we finally had a new winery and a new distillery for the House of Rémy Martin.

Which is your favourite city?

Capetown.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

On the Atlantic coast for a walk with my family.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The thrill of discovering treasures in the tasting room, but most of the time, to be honest, it’s starting with my kids asking for me to prepare their breakfast.

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