Rémy Martin has been ahead of the game for years. Since its founding in 1724, the house has always been conscious of its sustainability efforts — focusing on the soil, the terroir, and the people who take care of it. In 2007, its vineyards officially received a Sustainable Agriculture certification, and then in 2012, a High Environmental Value (HVE) certification. In 2023, Rémy Martin hopes to reduce carbon emissions per bottle by a whopping 50 percent.
Now with Baptiste Loiseau, the cellar master at Rémy Martin and the youngest to hold that position in Cognac, the house continues to blaze new trails in its industry. Loiseau is actively implementing sustainability measures in the house to understand the impacts of weather and climate, and help pave the way for generations to come.
VinePair chatted with Loiseau about current sustainability practices used at the house and what else can be done to help preserve the Cognac industry and our ecosystem for the future.
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1. You joined the Rémy Martin house in 2007 and soon became the youngest person to be appointed to cellar master in Cognac. How has that helped advance your career?
It took time to be appointed to cellar master. I trained [for] seven years beside the producer, and it’s something that we built and was transmitted step by step. When I joined the house in 2007, my role was to give advice to the growers. I was focusing on understanding the style of the house by being a member of the testing committee, but without having the idea that I could be the next cellar master because of my young age and the fact that I joined the house a few years ago. In 2010, when I was told I could be the cellar master, I was amazed. It was a dream job I could finally approach, and it was not a question of age. It’s really a question of passion — a question of dedication — and you dedicate a lot of time to go and see the growers to understand the distillation process for the house. In April 2014, I became the cellar master of Rémy Martin.
2. For many years, Rémy Martin has been committed to sustainability efforts. How did these efforts first come about?
It’s part of the DNA of the house. When you’re from the regions surrounded by vineyards, surrounded by all these distilleries, you have in mind from a very young age that when you plant the vineyards, it’s for the next generation. In general, in all the regions where we are growing grapes, you have to embody all these sustainable practices because you are not working for yourself. You are working for the next generations. The wine growers are the first ones that have been cautious that their practices can have an impact on the biodiversity and on the quality of the soils and the air. When creating their practices, they have in mind that it has to be the most sustainable as possible, depending also on the right climate or the climate change they are facing.
In 2002, the United Nations began working on the categorization of order for the goals we have to work to reach in terms of biodiversity, quality of water, etc. We have been involved from the very beginning in the chapter called the Global Compact. We had a solid basis for the group, then all the houses of the group were really engaged in this vision. More than 20 years ago, it [was] something that we structured in terms of a roadmap for the group. Now, it’s something that is a long-term process. However, in wine growing, even when you change a little bit of a practice, it can take a long time before it has the effects you want to have on the grapes or the soil.
3. What are the benefits of Cognac being sustainable?
The benefit is first on the biodiversity you can have in the vineyards. The vision of the cellar master is to have consistency in the interconnect he or she is making every year because we have to respect the style. When you speak about a house, it has its own style. The style of the house of Rémy Martin is only working in Cognac and Champagne, so we are not sourcing the grapes in all regions, but only two in, let’s say, the heart of the region. When you are depending on the quality and the sourcing area, the preservation of these areas is crucial. We are sourcing from only two regions which are smaller compared to those used by our competitors. So for us, being sustainable, it’s much more how you can preserve for the next generation to tap into what has been done by the previous one. We have a roadmap for all our wine growers, which is based on agroecology. And it’s not only on the practices, but it’s also on the trees, the biodiversity, and the life of the soil that we have to take care of. Not only the grapes [themselves], but really the environment.
4. What are some challenges that you’ve faced with making Cognac sustainable?
We are certified with what is called the High Environmental Value (HEV) certification, given by the French Ministry of Agriculture. It takes into account all the practices you have on your farm and on the vineyards. It’s really something that helps you to think globally in terms of how to maintain sustainably with all these productions. And the four things on the certification are crucial for us. The first one is biodiversity. The second one is fertilization. The third one is how you protect the crops and help prevent the evolution of disease. And the fourth one is [about] water and how you manage the water supply. The ripeness of the grapes happens much faster now than what we saw more than 20 years ago. We have to adapt to this kind of change. We need to be sure that we can maintain consistency, and we need to try to consider what the next change might be, especially in the weather. It’s the biggest challenge we are facing.
5. The company has partnered with Genesis Labs to help protect natural habitats and created the Cognac L’Etape with 19 local wine growers who hold the High Environmental Value (HVE) certification. Can you talk more about these partnerships and their role in Rémy Martin’s sustainability efforts?
We are preparing what will be the next step in sustainability with some of the research and development partnerships, and that’s the case with Genesis. We wanted to find a company that would help us to understand the biodiversity, the carbon, and the water by analyzing the soil to show different indicators of what could be improved. We take samples directly from the soil, and we send the samples to Genesis and two other labs. We then collect all this data and make some indicators of what is working and what needs to be improved. It’s not only something that we are doing in our vineyards. It’s something that we [have been] developing for almost 30 different wine growers since last year.
Four years ago, we decided we wanted to have a blended product; a Champagne Cognac that would help people to understand who the makers are and what they are doing in the vineyards, including preserving all the trees they have in their plots. Four years ago, I decided to make a blend that came from estates that had been High Environmental Value certified. This product is a limited edition which is called the L’Etape. There are 19 wine growers in total, and you can find the name of the growers on the label and a QR code with content from our site and videos explaining who the makers are. It’s the best way to show the partnership we have between our growers in the house.
6. Are there any other plans to help Rémy Martin attain these sustainability goals?
In 2024, we will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the house. Of course, we will have a lot going on that year, with much of it linked to our sustainable practices. We will also highlight what the people in the field are doing. We have developed a research and development roadmap that is an agroecology project and has already started in our estates. We currently dedicate 20 acres to agroecology. It will continue to grow next year and could be something that we will spread all over the world because we are working with almost 800 growers. All of these people will be trained to understand the agroecology and how to behave in terms of quality of the soil. It’s a big project that we launched and announced a few days ago.
7. What else do you think can be done within the spirits industry to help preserve our ecosystem?
First, you have to go back to the soil and the terroir, and in the terroir, there are the makers. Many people believe that in the French terroir, it’s the combination of soil and the weather. There is another factor: the women and men who are taking care of the earth, taking care of the air, taking care of the vineyards, and all the trees. We don’t have all the answers, but we can listen to people who have lots of experience and who have been trained by the previous generation. Nothing has been done perfectly, and we have to be transparent [about] what we are showing. We are learning, and we are dealing with nature. Every year, we face new challenges in terms of the weather and in terms of climate change. We don’t have all the solutions, but we are doing our best to maintain and improve our sustainability practices. It starts in the fields, and the next challenge will be on energy. We are using lots of energy for distillation, and we have a lot of research to do to invent what could be the policy of tomorrow. That’s our challenge.