Martell's new Chanteloup XXO is a blend of 450 'waters of life'
There's much excitement in Cognac, France, as an ancient art produces an innovation
Cognac is a secretive place. I feel this as I walk along the cobblestone streets of the small French village, exceptional only because every few blocks there are grand Cognac Houses that hold, in underground cellars, the classified recipes of each particular brand. So when I'm invited into one of these cellars by the cellar master of the oldest cognac maker in the world, on the premise that he's going to share some of his secrets with me, I follow him, without question, through the mouldy tunnels and into his lair.
Christophe Valtaud, Martell cellar master, was born in Cognac, the great-grandson of wine growers and distillers of the region. He tells me that when he was five, his grandfather started taking him into the cognac cellars where he fell in love with the scent of the amber liquid. A magician and alchemist before a scientist (with a degree in biochemistry, molecular biology and plant physiology), Valtaud, whose soul is part of the cognac soil, has been cellar master at Martell for the past three years...