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Francois Peyrot

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:32 pm
by Pierre
Being in Bordeaux this August for family reasons, I thought I'd take a small tour to the Cognac surroundings and go visit a couple of small producers to see if I could find some "hidden jewels" of some sort :mrgreen:
I'd read some nice stuffs about Francois Peyrot, particularly their Pineau des Charentes, so I contacted them for a small tour of the house. We came there with my wife and a friend and were welcome quite nicely in this relatively small family business. They take care of everything with roughly 4-5 people (!), including taking care of the grapes, making the wine, the distillation, contact with customers and distributors plus export.

They have a pretty nice and old alambic (sorry no pictures for me, same quota message as usual). The property includes 24 hectares of vines, ugni-blanc and colombard (I forgot to ask the fraction of each in their cognacs -_-) and we've been shown the machine they use to get the grapes, how they press the grains, make the wine etc... They take pride in growing very healthy grapes and don't need to add sulfites to their wine/pineau. We've also visited what I believe is their main cellar, with barrels patiently waiting and instillating their tannins into the eau-de-vie :) They also have very big tanks where they usually put the cognacs from different barrels to marry them and make their blendings. Our guide said that they have a tendency now to start ageing them directly in those big tanks as it seems to create more harmonious/homogeneous cognacs.
We had a pretty nice chat there, among the barrels and fungi (mushrooms) all around feeding on vapours of alcohol :mrgreen: These houses, even the small ones, export a large majority of their production abroad, roughly 80% for family Peyrot. The "exploding" market now is China, everybody has China on their lips around there. I learned a few interesting things: even though he's told us he didn't have to use additives for the local market (I don't know if it's only France or he was talking on a european scale) but they have to use it for example for the chinese market because they favour very dark cognac over clearer stuff... We've also talked about the dynamics of the business and it seems that very small producers (less than 10 hectares) and not so young anymore will probably sell their vines to the biggest houses in the next few years due to growing constraints from legal normes and having to fill a lot of documents from the internet (complicated administrative stuffs).
One other clear message (all of this is our guide's opinion, just delivering to you, to be clear): the big four are not so popular among smaller houses, because they have such a powerful influence over professional syndicate that sets the technical standards. One example: the minimum age for XO was about to change from 6 to 10 years, but big houses have delayed that norm... Supposedly because they use a not so small fraction of 6YO in their XO and it would have given them a very hard time for supplying the growing chinese demand. I personnally didn't think they really used 6YO eaux-de-vie but a local producer can surely tell much better than me...

Anyway, we got to the tasting part. These are usually free (like the visits) in small houses. We didn't get to taste the whole range but chose what we would rather taste. I went directly for their XO and Héritage cognacs. The XO won several prizes (even very recently), and it's actually a bargain at 50€ (buying directly there of course), it was very fruity on the nose, maybe some vine peaches, a bit of pears for me and other things, glimpses of floral notes maybe ? Followed by a palate that I found pleasantly spicy for a cognac, you can feel some (gentle) power even at 40%. I'd have taken a bottle, were it not for the Héritage that (imo) blew it away. Although the XO's a 25YO eau-de-vie, this one's a blend of at least 45YO (with average of 50YO if I understood correctly ?). It was more complex, actually I wouldn't dare writing too much right now about it (will write again later) except for one word: RANCIO ! One that makes you get your credit card out right away: I took myself a bottle of that one, 90€ for 45YO cognac, how on earth can you beat that ? And cherry on the cake, this is a yummy cask strength 45% ABV sauce, with superbly controlled power, lots of finesse.

Finally we got to taste their famous pineaux. I like pineau :mrgreen: I must say their youngest pineaux didn't strike me so much, the white was more to my taste than the red but it lacked depth (imo of course). I found their old white pineau much more to my taste, quite smooth, more wood maybe, less of a killer than the Bache Gabrielsen but pretty decent, got myself a bottle of that one too...

All in all, good stuff, maybe I'll get a bottle of their XO in the future (I could spot it in several places, even in Italy). I didn't taste any of their cognac liqueurs, their pear liqueur having an excellent reputation, I hope to correct that in the future also :P Hard to beat their price/quality ratio frankly, even though I wouldn't make it my favourite cognac tastewise.

Re: Francois Peyrot

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:40 pm
by numen
Hi Pierre, it's great to hear that you've been having a very good (enjoyable and informative) trip so far. Thanks so much for the superb narrative about your experiences so far! I'm very pleased that the Heritage was so impressive; I got a bottle a while ago, but have yet to try it. 90 Euros is a steal! It was marketed in the US for around $180, and a deal for that even.

On the XO debate, I'm inclined to suspect that the view toward the larger houses is correct/accurate. Most XOs from the major houses tend to be significantly younger than those from the smaller houses. The bigger houses may use some older (read 20-25 year old) eaux-de-vie in their XO blends, but I'd suspect that it's more to balance out to some extent the much younger stuff in there. XO from the big houses are significantly more expensive than the VSOPs, and can bring in much more revenue. They're able to put out significantly more XO if they are able to fill up more of the bottles with younger stuff, which also takes up less space. I'm sure that some of the purchases in China are status-driven (XO over VSOP); when I was recently in Cognac, I was told that the US is the largest foreign purchaser of cognac by volume, but China was the biggest purchaser of higher-end/more-expensive cognac. I'm sure that the various bureaus that oversee regulations have calculated that keeping the XO designation for 6 years is more profitable to France/Cognac in general because of the volume difference between the big four and the smaller estates.

Re: Francois Peyrot

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:31 pm
by Pierre
Hi numen ! I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on their Héritage when you open it some day.
Where did you go when you were near Cognac ? Did you visit some producers ? I concur about the chinese market buying a lot of high-end cognac, they like to buy XO and above according to what I've been told.

Re: Francois Peyrot

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:30 pm
by numen
I'll be sure to share them once I've tried it, but it may be a ways down the road. I didn't get to visit small producers; I was there just a few days, but did hit Remy and Hennessy. Otherwise, I just relaxed in and around the city. It's so sleepy and quiet! There was hardly anybody about town. Did you stop by Cognac (the city)? I went into La Cognatheque, but was not impressed. I thought that they would have more, but the prices were very high, and the selection wasn't as good as the website suggested.

Re: Francois Peyrot

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:08 am
by Pierre
Yes, taken by the enthusiasm I shared right away without having more precise notes to give, I'll update later when I can sip a bit more of their products :)
By the way, one more comment from Mr Peyrot: he doesn't believe anyone can produce almost black cognac without using additives, and that it's impossible to age the eau-de-vie in new barrels for more than two years... Daniel Bouju came to my mind immediately, I think next time I'll have to visit them and see directly for myself !
Edit: Sorry I didn't answer your question, we went to Cognac to have lunch before the visits, we ate in a restaurant on the Place Francois Premier (the one with La Coghathèque). They had a roasted camembert which was really excellent, but they were a little slow so I couldn't stop by the shop. Strange that they had a limited choice, they're maybe the most reknown cognac shop... Given that it's summer and the holiday season it was somewhat more crowded but not overwhelming, looks like a charming city, I hope next time I have the time to take a walk there !

Re: Francois Peyrot

Posted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:23 pm
by Fuzhou
The mainland Chinese was introduce to cognacs through earlier Hong Kong movies. As a matter of fact, in the earlier days, most can not tell the difference between cognac vs. Whisky. They recognize that the XO iteration pertains to something fantastic. This had became a status symbol in a way; therefore, many mainland Chinese in the early days just wanted to get a taste of what the XO was all about; and since there are 1.4 billion of them, even a small portion of them with this curiosity would substantially drive up demand.