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Drinks Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud On Crafting Martell Chanteloup XXO

Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud On Crafting Martell Chanteloup XXO

Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud On Crafting Martell Chanteloup XXO
By Samantha Lim
By Samantha Lim
December 17, 2019
T.Dining catches cellar master Christophe Valtaud in the eye of the storm amidst a whirlwind of activity surrounding the worldwide launch of Martell Chanteloup XXO

Auspicious Number 9
Did you know that in the past 300 years there have been 23 popes but only 9 cellar masters? Only 9 individuals have devoted their lives to discovering the secrets of Martell.

A Cellar Master’s Sacrifice
Rather like the pope, cellar masters too, must renounce certain things in life. I never drink coffee or eat foods that are too spicy. Neither do I smoke. Rinsing my mouth out with salt water helps to keep my palate pristine.

Of Private Pleasures
I love reading historical tomes. Two of my more private hobbies are playing the piano and painting, but these are for my ears and my eyes only.
 

Christophe Valtaud, Maison Martell's ninth cellar master in its 300 years of existence
Christophe Valtaud, Maison Martell's ninth cellar master in its 300 years of existence

A Reflection Of The Maker
Martell Chanteloup XXO is truly a part of myself, as it was my choice to have pronounced flavours from the Grand Champagne cru, which is where I was born. I guess you could say that Chanteloup XXO blends my story and Martell’s rich history to birth legacy.
 
Water Of Life
Chanteloup XXO is extraordinary in that it contains a blend of 450 different Cognacs (maybe more in the future). Each eaux-de-vie vintage has its own style due to the weather and other factors. I was only able to create this Cognac because my predecessor protected previous batches of eaux-de-vie. I must now pave the pathway for the future generation of cellar masters.
 
Secret Recipe Or Savoir-Faire?
For our competitors who would like to know our ‘secret recipe,’ here’s the truth: of course my predecessor gave me the recipe—it’s a percentage of this eaux-de-vie and a bit of that one, et cetera, et cetera—but when you’re working with a very old Cognac, you have to forget all formulations. It mostly comes down to savoir-faire: it is a cellar master’s olfactory and gustatory ability that enables him to recreate a Cognac blend.

Lessons For His Successor
The most important secret about Cognac that we cellar masters must pass on entails ‘sensation’—how to describe or to feel an eaux-de-vie. If I were to pronounce an eaux-de-vie very acidic and too intense but my heir felt otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to recreate it.
 
Another tip is to devote time to tasting. I taste Cognac almost every day in order to memorise Martell’s entire production. The memory of taste is enough to fill a library, and if you haven’t read all the books in that library, you won’t have the materials to create your story. And the best way to keep a Cognac in your mind is to feel something for each one because it holds something special for you.

The memory of taste is enough to fill a library, and if you haven’t read all the books in that library, you won’t have the materials to create your story.


 
An Expression Of Time
I associate the extra, extra old Cognac with precision, a quality that only comes with time. Think of your favourite sport. Now picture practicing it tirelessly every day. Say you participate in a championship and take home the trophy—such victories are only possible with a thing called Time.
 
With 450 different eaux-de-vies, the Martell Chanteloup XXO truly is the equation of time—time taken to age it, time spent concocting the recipe, and taking the time off to enjoy it.

  • Photography Martell / Pernod Ricard

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