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Remy Martin Grande Champagne 1989 Cognac - Review

A Nineteen-Year-Old With Expensive Taste

by Jeff Hoyt

Rémy Martin Grande Champagne 1989 Cognac

Good cognac usually results from a talented master blender combining different proportions of various vintages to produce the best beverage possible, and to try to achieve consistency through time. Most cognacs are blends of hundreds if not thousands of eaux de vie. A VSOP cognac may incorporate thirty to forty different flavors, while an XO may utilize sixty. But Rémy Martin is introducing its Grande Champagne 1989 Cognac, a rare single vintage cognac which the company has been developing for nineteen years at great risk.

Vincent Géré, director of Rémy Martin Cognacs and Estates, admits the concept of vintage cognac is a paradox that goes against nature: “How can you deliver top quality with just one component? Normally, a single vintage is lacking in texture and complexity. It could be dry, bitter or astringent.”

French law prevented selling vintage cognac until 1989. Géré himself helped select this particular batch that year from among 1,500 contenders, which was distilled from Ugni Blanc grapes grown in Rémy Martin’s own Grande Champagne vineyards. The chosen lot was then locked in a dedicated cellar, which could only be opened twice a year in the presence of a government official. The barrels—made from large-grained Limousin oak to produce plenty of tannins—were not allowed to be changed. They started with 95 barrels, but ended up with only 72, enough to produce just 1,500 cases.

The gamble in trying to produce a single vintage cognac that can compete with other high-end spirits appears to have paid off. The result is golden-amber-colored and heavily fruit-driven, with spicy aromas of figs and cloves as well as vanilla. We enjoy apricot and orange peel on the palate, with a very satisfying mouthfeel. Expect a bit of a burn from the 45-percent-alcohol beverage, which features long legs. The one attribute lacking is the roundness typically found in high-end blended cognacs.

The first single-harvest cognac released in America since Rémy Martin 1965 is now available in the U.S. in distinctive black, frosted, understated bottles hand-dipped in wax that feature a large punt. Enjoy it neat or over ice. It pairs well with creamy desserts, such as a panna cotta.

Price: $300

Louis XIII de Rémy Martin

For more information visit www.remy.com

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(Updated 09/18/08 SCV)

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