- Article by Online Editor
ADR travels with inside co-editor Jan Henderson as she visits Cognac, taking us on a tour of the Martell estates, one of the area’s most elegant sites. Pictured above: The original home of Jean Martell restored and situated on the estate.
The picturesque village of Cognac in south-west France fulfills a visitor’s expectations of the quintessential French provincial life with quaint houses, cobbled streets, food markets and fine wines. Cognac, the village, is home to cognac, the very special fortified alcohol, known world wide as an after dinner elixir.
The area where the grapes are grown is small and strictly controlled by the government however within this area there are many cognac houses such as Martell, Hennessy, Courvoisier and Remy Martin that can be visited in the summer season.
Situated on the very edge of the town centre, is Martell founded by Englishman Jean Martell in the 1715. The business of making cognac flourished as did the fortunes of the Martell family and in the 19th century the estate of Martell became a suburb of the town and spread over some 3.5 hectares of land.
Today, the Martell estate has been reduced, however it is still substantial with corporate offices and two laboratories, tasting areas and storage for the premium eau de vie that is required to make the best cognacs.
The Martell site celebrates three hundred years of history and a tour is essential to fully understand the journey of the family business through the centuries as well as the complexities of making fine cognac. The entrance and modern reception area is 21st century luxury with reception desk, three seating areas and a bar/tasting section decorated in the Martell colour palette of honey, beige and French blue.
This new building and walkway between the reception building and the balance of the estate was designed by architect Olivier Brochet of Brochet Lajus Pueyo and was completed just last year. The cavernous style entrance is clad in honey coloured timber and has been designed to resemble the hull of an upturned boat. As an added detail Brochet has integrated an outline of the famous Cordon Bleu bottle (Martell’s most famous product) into the ceiling where the timbers meet at each end. The idea behind the design was to ‘take a voyage of Martell’ to emulate the journey of the founder Jean Martell who came to France from Jersey some 300 hundred years ago.
The body of the estate is beyond the walkway and reception building and here is the working heart of the business. All the 19th century outbuildings have been restored and are used to this day for storage and warehousing and as blending and tasting rooms. Further afield the historic residence of Jean Martell, sits to the side of the estate buildings and the interior of the house has been painstakingly and authentically recreated through the 18th Century furnishings and furniture. The interior showcases the taste and lifestyle of a sophisticated and cultured man and presents a comfortable and decorative home for his family.
The tour of this beautiful estate ends with a cognac tasting back in the reception and tasting area where the journey of time, the art of the blender and architecture truly come together and are to be savoured.