Vallein Tercinier Lot 52, Grande Champagne, bottled for La Maison du Whisky, 43.9% ABV
Vallein Tercinier is a fast-rising independent Cognac house that is really only beginning to see its renaissance despite a long and storied history. If you ever want to get in on something before it became big, Cognac is probably your best shot.
A Once In 400 Year Opportunity?
A big part of the Cognac story is that in its almost 400-year history, a big shift is finally occurring - where the big houses no longer wield nearly as much attention, whilst smaller independent houses begin to for once receive actual interest in their craft. Whilst other drink categories from beers to whiskies, sakes to rums, wines to gins, have all upped their game in terms of communicating the value of their craft and provenance, really taking consumers into their world to truly understand what makes their expressions special, Cognacs have largely fallen behind.
Vallein Tercinier's estate in Chermignac.
For centuries, most of the 350+ Cognac producers in the region have simply sold their brandies to major Cognac houses which turn them into mega-blends that obscure any nuance or singularity of these single estate Cognacs. Thus with this external shift in consumption preferences, more folks are seeking out smaller independent Cognac producers who are able to offer products that are much more artisanal, singular in expression and with that much more transparency. Such true appreciation combined with an actual scarcity has driven much interest in value and authenticity seeking drinkers.
Now About Vallein Tercinier - A Name You Ought To Know
Which takes us to Vallein Tercinier - a family-owned Cognac house located in Chermignac in the Bons Bois region, that had been early to arrive in the Cognac region, who then subsequently began developing their vineyards in the mid-1800s. The name itself is a combination of the family's estate's original founder, Robin Tercinier, and that of his great-grandson, Paul Vallein, who began growing the family's Cognac business.
Whilst Robin had began settling into Cognac in the 1700s, it wasn't until his grandson Georges Vallein, who had in 1850, began to develop the vineyards and began producing Cognac. Initially much of Cognac produced by the family (with their four Alembic stills) would be sold to Remy Martin and Courvoisier - two of the Big Four Cognac houses. As mentioned, this was a dynamic that was common across the Cognac region for most of its brandy-making history.
The family began to develop some ownership over their Cognacs in 1920 when Paul Vallein, Georges' son, acquired the brand Camille Dupuis, which the family would begin bottling and marketing Cognac that they produced themselves.
A Chance Encounter Sparks A Revival
The war years were incredibly rough for the family and the family's estate and Cognac business whilst still surviving, stayed rather lowkey for the better of the next 50 years. It wasn't until the 1990s when the fifth-generation Tercinier, Catherine, joined the family business that the Vallein-Tercinier (VT) name began to regain its primary importance to the estate. She had made a call to retire the Camille Dupuis brand and would solely focus on developing the Vallein-Tercinier brand instead.
Sitting on a treasure trove.
What initially began with the reinstatement of the traditional Cognac grades - VS, VSOP, XO and Hors d'Age, took a massive upturn when Cognac expert, Pascal Baijot, of yet another fast rising independent Cognac house, Maison Grosperrin, had initially visited Vallein-Tercinier regarding the house's Pineau (an aperitif that VT also produces). During the tour. he had come to taste a Grande Champagne Cognac of Lot 65, and immediately remarked that the house should skip the blends and bottle single cask and single lot Cognacs for sale instead!
Without too much debate, Catherine had heeded Baijot's advice and did exactly that - the Cognac caught on to some positive reviews from notable critiques and almost overnight, VT's phones were blowing up with orders. This clearly indicated to Catherine that the demand for such single cask (bottled brut de fut or "straight from the cask") and single lot (known as millesimes) Cognacs were strong and that pursuing it would put the house on the right track - and sure enough the past decade has been incredible fruitful Vallein-Tercinier.
Centuries Old Yet In Rebirth
Today, VT is well-regarded and increasingly notable with drinkers, with the house itself in good shape and sitting on decades of sleeping Cognac casks. More recently, Catherine's nephew, Stephane, has also joined the family business and has sought to expand the family's geographic footprint in Cognac, as well as to plant new vines.
A centuries long revival in the making.
The estate now has over half its vineyards planted with Ugni Blanc vines, and continues to add hectares across the Fins Bois and Bons Bois regions. Distillation is also carried out over an expanded eight Alembic copper stills.
With all that said, let's give today's Vallein Tercinier Lot 52 Grande Champagne that's bottled for La Maison du Whisky a go! Single cask, brut de fut, from 1952 and bottled in 2023 (making it 71 years old!) is really the best way to taste what the house has to offer isn't it?
I was lucky enough to try this during Whisky Live Singapore 2023, which if you're looking to try some pretty rare expressions like this VT, do keep a look out for the 2024 edition that's happening at the Singapore Flyer on 23/24 November.
Vallein Tercinier Lot 52, Grande Champagne, bottled for La Maison du Whisky, 43.9% ABV - Review
Aroma: Rather herbal, grassy and herbaceous - parsley, cut grass, dried herbal roots, quite vegetal really with a rather tannic and dry quality. In the backdrop there’s some Demerara sugar and light touch of raisins.
Taste: Still herbal, but certainly sweeter here with more pronounced brown sugar sweetness, alongside dried longans, lychees, with these gorgeous herbal jelly notes - much like a traditional Chinese herbal dessert (Cheng Tng). Still some of that woody tannins and Chinese herbs from the nose.
Finish: Incredibly aromatic with all these autumnal, more earthy notes - browned leaves, brown sugar, herbal jelly, old wood.
Initially the herbs threw me off alittle, being rather strong and austere. But it was very interesting, that much I’ll give it, yet it wasn’t really down my alley.
However, when it struck my palate, boy oh boy, this was incredibly enjoyable. It had all the herbal, earthy, mellow and sweet notes you associate with an incredibly well-aged rhum agricole. Fruity and perfumery, with a rounded and silky body - great structure at that.
All of which carried through into the finish where it deepened and the earthy notes developed into being more pronounced and refined - absolutely elegant and with this great sense of depth.
My Rating: 9/10
Score/Rating Scale :
- 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
- 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
- 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
- 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
- 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.
Image Source: Cognac Expert