Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Cognac Lhéraud: A Chat with Francois Rebel
On March 3, 2016, I experienced two “firsts” in Las Vegas. I had the fortune to interview Mr. Francois Rebel, export manager for Cognac Lhéraud, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at GIADA restaurant also a first time for me in The Cromwell hotel. We enjoyed a very nice meal while Rebel shared a little about himself and the history of the Cognac Lhéraud. The company has 50 employees, and sells almost 1 million bottles of Cognac a year. Major export countries are China, Russia, Japan, Korea, and has only more recently started to venture into the United States as of 2014. In addition to California, New York, Dallas, etc., the producer is now branching into Las Vegas.
Cognac in itself is very unique. Similar to other beverages like Champagne or Port, Cognac can only be called “Cognac” if, and only if, the brandy is produced in the Cognac region of France, within the strict regulations of the governing body. Brandy is sometimes called eau de vie, or “water of life,” and is made by fermenting fruit into wine, and then double distilled. Depending on the producer and the style, the resulting brandy may or may not be oaked. Armagnacs do follow a similar process, except that they are typically distilled only once in a traditional Armagnac pot no double distillation.
At Cognac Lhéraud, the grape varietals used in their cognacs are Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard, while their Armagnacs are primarily composed of Ugni Blanc. The brandies are aged in French oak barrels, some for many decades. Their Cognac producing region is located about 70 miles north of the Bordeaux region, where the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions are located. Their Armagnac producing region is about 100 miles south of Bordeaux, in the Bas-Armagnac region. Rebel was proud to state that they do not blend their Cognacs or Armagnacs produced, which is what makes them superior. In addition, no caramel or sugar is added, so the end product is its most natural form.
The family-owned business must take good care of its people, as Rebel himself has been with the company for 30 years, since 1978! Rebel was not even in the beverage industry at his time of hire nor was he a consumer of cognacs, but was still hired at Cognac Lhéraud under the condition that he learn German, so Rebel went to a language-immersion school and rapidly became fluent in German. The average tenure of the ~50 employees is approximately 10 years, with around six employees having been there over 25 years.
After tasting through a series of their Cognacs and Armagnacs, I must say I am thoroughly impressed. Below is a list of the brandies I sampled:
From Cognac Lhéraud:
Cognac V.S. AOC Petite Champagne
Cognac V.S.O.P. AOC Petite Champagne
1974 Cognac Grande Champagne
1964 Cognac Petite Champagne
From Baron Gaston Legrand
1955 Bas-Armagnac Vieil
I definitely had my favorites of the limited selection I tasted. Of course, it was a treat to be able to taste through so many of Cognac Lhéraud’s portfolio, but I especially liked the 1955 Bas-Armagnac Vieil, which had a very elegant nose, with an aromatic vanilla and orange essence. I also favored the 1974 Petite Champagne, which had a toasty, nutty, oak flavor profile, with notes of vanilla and orange peel, with a slightly spicy but smooth finish.
It is clear that the Lhéraud family is dedicated to their craft and strive for perfection. To them, “Passion is more than a word… it is total dedication.” It was a pleasure talking with Rebel, as he showed obvious passion for his work with Cognac Lhéraud, and treats the Lhéraud family as his own.
Now that Cognac Lhéraud is available for order and/or purchase in Las Vegas, be sure to contact Wilson Daniels, a family-owned marketing/sales company with a premium portfolio of wines and spirits, and one of my favorite distributors! For more information on Cognac Lhéraud, go to:
Until next month, Cheers~!