13 years ago, Remy Martin embarked on a journey of sustainability. The objective is to achieve the highest level of environmental excellence, adopting practices that contribute to improving the impact of agricultural activity on the environment.
The Rémy Martin Domains, certified sustainable agriculture by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2007, is a testbed for environmental and experimental research. Measuring 220 hectares in the Grande Champagne appellation, trial projects include raising biodiversity and managing fertilisation effectively, with an eye on improving the quality of the grapes.
Since that time, Remy Martin has made a tremendous stride. All of its wine-growing partners have pledged to the common cause. Their lands abide by a responsible and sustainable farming process. Today, the maison spearheads the environmental commitment in the Charente region. 85% of High Environmental Value (HVE)-certified farms in the two departments of Charente are partners of Remy Martin and of the Alliance Fine Champagne. The HVE certification concerns four areas – biodiversity, phytosanitary strategy, fertilisation and irrigation. In fact, half of Remy Martin’s partner farms have received their HVE certification – two years ahead of schedule.
To acknowledge and celebrate the achievement of its wine-growing partners, since 2018, Remy Martin has been honouring those who obtained HVE certification in the past year at the Centaures de l’Environnement annual ceremony. This year, 62 partners are rewarded for their efforts in sustainable agriculture.
To gain insights into Remy Martin’s path to sustainability and challenges along the way, we speak with Philippe Farnier, managing director of Rémy Martin, and Baptiste Loiseau, cellar master of Rémy Martin.
What challenges does Remy Martin face in persisting with sustainable practices?
Farnier: You can see it as challenges, or you see it as opportunities. We truly believe this is an opportunity. It is not something that we start today. It is part of our core values – terroir, people and time. There is this notion of heritage and transmission within the house. We believe it is both work and passion, every day, to make sure that our products are the best.
Apart from terroir and packaging is something that we need to work on. I think it is something that our clients expect. With what has happened in the past two months, the message we received from our clients is that they want a sense of the product. We have stopped in the US market gift boxes. It is the start of something new.
Having said that, the main challenge for us is climate change.
Why do you think the cognac industry should commit to sustainable practices?
Farnier: I believe for anyone in the luxury game, sustainability is the most important topic for the next hundred years and that is our conviction. At Remy Martin, our environmental approach revolves around three main values. We are family driven. We think long term. It is particularly true for Louis XIII. We value terroir. Not only do we produce cognac, we are part of the Cognac region. We are the quintessence of cognac. Why do we want to champion sustainability? Because people and time matter to us. We truly believe that if we don’t take care of terroir, we will have big challenges in the future.
For us, luxury stands for exceptional. We want to do better every day and sustainability is part of our quest for excellence.
Do sustainability practices bring a greater burden?
Farnier: We are not in the quest for volume; we are in the quest for value. Sure, the cost of our liquid is increasing, but for good reason. First, we need to explain why the cost is higher. A product done with love, passion and care costs more. And it is better to drink less but drink better. You don’t need to drink too much – it isn’t the point. Take a step back and take time to appreciate.
How do you balance between the commitment to sustainability and quality?
Loiseau: It starts at the place where all the eaux-de-vie which one day will become part of the final blend of Remy Martin. We are not changing the demand of our quality for the grande champagne and petite champagne because of the green practices. The winegrowers who inherit the terroirs, they are the first to be concerned about sustainable practices because they don’t just think about themselves. They think about the next generation who one day will inherit the farm.
We are the ones who will have contracts and partnerships with them. We are here to help them by giving them advice. There are four people in my team dedicated to this cause. They visit them in the vineyards, help them taste the grapes, make the wines and taste them at the end of fermentation. That is a real partnership. It is an opportunity to make this link between people stronger.
To be more precise. Every year, the growers present some samples as part of the agreement with Remy Martin to buy these eaux-de-vie. There are more than 1,000 samples. The tasting committee will then decide through blind tasting every sample the ageing potential of these eaux-de-vie, all the while keeping in mind that what we select now is for the future. For example, the VSOP, we are preparing for something that will be bottled at least four or five years from now. The best of the best will be put aside to be part of the XO, or Louis XIII if it is grande champagne.
Like the awards focusing on environmental practices, we also celebrate the best master distillers in the house. Among the 800, 42 this year for the 2019 vintage have reached the highest quality needed for the house. You can see that we are highlighting those who are the best of the best in terms of environmental practices, as well as in terms of quality. We make sure that they are awarded twice. So it is not really a struggle but a combination.