For 4 days last week I was incarcerated in La Salamandre conference centre in Cognac, tasting fish and shellfish with various styles of cognac, from VS to XO, via VSOP and frozen VS. We were a group of 48 tasters, cooks, sommeliers, food producers, writers and others from France, Russia, China, Germany and Great Britain.
The task was challenging to say the least. Scientific tasting was the order of the day, so as to try and disengage ‘the emotions’ as the French would have it. Our group was well versed in wine and food tasting, but none of us had any experience of spirits and food pairing, so the exercise required all our attention as well as a good deal of tolerance until we were all calibrated to the same measurements.
Results were mixed- some very good, and unexpected matches were discovered, and some more obvious ones didn’t work.
Overall it was a good and valid experience, and it will be good to see the overall collated results in due course. Like most spirits, it is hard to say that they would be the first choice as a beverage to enjoy with food, however when the match worked, it would be a truly rewarding experience for the diner if they could be persuaded to try it.
We were also treated to some very good producer visits- Meukow, Hennessy, Martell and Camus, where we saw everything from distillation to barrel maturation, as well as the glass demi-johns in which mature cognac is kept, going back to the 1800s in some cases!
At Camus we all got the opportunity to blend our own cognac, which has now to be left for at least 3 months to harmonise before sampling again!