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Noé Tesseron Takes Us Through Treasures Pulled From His Family's Cellars In Châteauneuf sur Charente; We Taste The Tesseron Experience 01 His Grandfather Made!

   

World Cognac Day was around the corner and what better way to celebrate than to attend a masterclass with one of the top Cognac producers around - Tesseron! And it's led by none other than Noe Tesseron, the fourth-generation Tesseron who helps to manage the House along with his father and uncle, Alfred and Gerard, as well as his sister, Justine, and cousins Melanie and Philippine.

Now Tesseron's Cognacs have been around for the better part of two decades, having first launched to consumers in the early 2000's. But don't be fooled, the House traces its history to 1905... and then some! What started out as a personal passion in collecting Cognacs has turned into a four-generation grower and producer of Cognacs, which up until recently engaged primarily as a wholesaler to negociants in the form of the major Cognac houses (major brands like y'know who don't produce their own Cognacs but instead purchase Cognacs from around the region, blend them, bottle them and focus on marketing them instead of producing the Cognac themselves).

 

The Tesseron estate in the heart of Cognac.

A Four Generation History In Viticulture, Meet The Tesseron's

Tracing the Tesseron's family history, the House (or Maison) is established in 1905 by Abel Tesseron who was an avid Cognac collector and eventually figured that he would go one step further and distill his own Cognacs. His belief was that with great estates in the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, renown for producing grapes that turn into Cognacs of spectacular ageing potential, it was best to realise their potential by building up well-aged stocks of Cognac.

By 1940, his son Guy would join the House. Where Abel was passionate about the spirit, Guy possessed an acute sharpness when it came to business - we'll see more of that later. Under Guy, the Tesseron's would build a great reputation for themselves as growers and producers. Come 2000, third-generation Alfred and Gerard would join as well, doing something that would be eventually be the reason we're gathered to try Tesseron Cognac today! And finally the fourth-generation sees Alfred's two children, as mentioned earlier Noe and Justine, as well as cousins Melanie and Philippine, help to spur the House forward, giving it a more youthful sensibility.

 

Justine, Noe and Alfred Tesseron, carrying on a strong family legacy of viticulture first.

A Wine Connection

Although the Tesseron's have largely built their name on Cognacs, based in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente, if you also happen to be a wine lover, you would most likely be familiar with another name that the Tesseron family is behind of - Pauillac's Chateau Pontet Canet, a Bordeaux stunner. What was once the prized estate of the Royal Governer of Medoc, Jean-François de Pontet, would be acquired in 1975 by Alfred Tesseron, under whom, the estate would ascend in status and become the highly sought after wine that it is today. By the time the Tesseron's had purchased Ch. Pontet Canet, they were already highly regarded for being incredible vineyard maestros, with second-generation Tesseron, Guy, having led a massive turnaround in the today well-known Chateau Lafon Rochet.

 

 

For that wine connection, Tesseron therefore also has the honour of being the only Cognac house rated by notable wine critic Robert Parker - who handling gave the Classique Collection Lot 29 100-points and the Lot 53 98-points.

After A Century, It's Time For Tesseron To Display Its Own Name

It wasn't until the early 2000's that third-generation Tesseron, Alfred, decided that a century was long enough, and it was perhaps time for the House's Cognacs to don its own name. Today, the Tesseron house is widely understood to be sitting on some of the most well-developed stock of Cognacs, which are available directly to consumers, and no longer go unnamed under another Cognac megablend. Playing to its strengths, Tesseron focuses only on XO Cognacs (aged at least 10 years) and Hors d'Age (over 30 years).

 

Today's Menu: (Top Row, Left to Right) Tesseron Lot 90, Lot 76, Lot 53); (Bottom Row) Tesseron Lot 29.

   

And so it's pretty clear that the Tesseron's have a strong know-how when it comes to viticulture, which was something emphasised during the masterclass.

Tesseron's Cognac Making Savoir Faire

Now to delve more specifically into Tesseron's Cognacs, the House sits on 40 hectares of land across Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, where they grow a combination of Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes, representing the trio of Charentais varieties that Cognac can be made of (it's become more common for other growers to focus solely on Ugni Blanc, yet the Tesseron's have kept the Cognac tradition alive as one of the last remaining houses to do so). Whilst Ugni Blanc is prized for being the core of Cognacs, it is also easier to grow and thus its popularity. Yet Tesseron maintains that whilst the Folle Blanche and Colombard varietals are much more difficult to harvest, they are necessary to add finesse and complexity to the Cognac. 

 

Tesseron operates fully from vineyard to bottle, from grower to producer, and now its own brand.

 

Grapes are harvested in early autumn, where it is fermented and double distilled (repasse) in a traditional Charente copper pot still heated over a naked flame. Only the "heart" of the spirit produced is used (the "head" and "tails" which is the spirit that comes out first and last respectively, is not kept due to inconsistency and lack of richness). The spirit is distilled on lees to enhance complexity, then aged for at least 3 years in French Limousin oak barrels, before being re-racked into older, less active barrels to mellow out and continue ageing. During the ageing, these casks are stored in Tesseron's 12th Century cellar that was once the crypt of a local church where it is cool and humid to allow very gradual ageing. 

Once they've reached the optimal maturation, the Cognacs are then frozen in time by being transferred into 25 litre glass demi-john jars where they no longer interact with oak and don't age. They are stored for decades and centuries in a dark cellar known as the Paradis where they stay just as they were when they first entered. Finally they are then blended to create the expressions that we enjoy today!

 

The Tesseron blending room.

Tasting The Classique Collection

As Noe mentions, Tesseron's ideal flavour profile is one that harnesses the best of what Grande Champagne Cognacs are known for - freshness and richness, with long ageing potential. The more it ages, the more vibrant it gets!

We started off first with the Tesseron Classique Collection that includes four numbered Lots - Lot 90, Lot 76, Lot 53 and Lot 29.

The inspiration behind the four expressions with their respective Lot numbers was to reflect the lifetimes' work of four generations of Tesseron's. 

    

 

For more detailed reviews of Tesseron's Cognacs, head on over here! I've summarised them down below.

Tasting Notes

Tesseron Cognac Lot 90 XO Ovation. Pours a rich golden colour. Very fresh! On the nose, there's a good amount of richness here, yellow raisins, green grapes, scoops of maltose candy, orange peel and some milk coffee. This carries through to the palate, it's got a nice full hefty body, rounded, alittle bit brighter and more vibrant. Some cedar along with the yellow raisins and maltose candy. More cacao and dark chocolate with some nuttiness in the finish. For the entry level of the range this is superb! It already blows most Cognacs out of the water. Very fresh and with a good richness. Super satisfying warmth in the finish.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 76 XO Tradition. Alittle more amber in hue here. Nice richness and depth. It's more mellow and honeyed here on the nose, a lovely syrupy sensibility of yellow raisins, figs and some mocha. Again, it so consistently carries through to the palate (what you nose is what you get!) - maltose, figs, raisins, dark chocolate, alittle more earthy here with some soft oak. Leather, figs and runny honey with a dusting of nutmeg and green grapes on the finish. This takes the Lot 90 and beefs it up in richness and depth, it's also got a darker more earthy profile with almost Sherried qualities that Sherried whisky fans would go bonkers for - all those decadent figs, cacao, leather, baking spices.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 53 XO Perfection. We're approaching deep amber here. Woah! On the nose is a ridiculous amount of bright fruit - vibrant green grapes and yellow raisins, loads of maltose candy. It's bright and fruity but also rich and candied. At the back there's a cave cellar mustiness and some nutmeg. On the palate, the freshness persists, really vibrant with green grape gummies, which then evolves to darker flavours of mocha, leather and a gentle woodiness. Such range. The finish sees more of those candied fruits, lots of fruit gummies, some coffee grounds too. This was my personal favourite as there was a vibrant and bright top note of candied fruits with also a base note of rich earthiness of mocha and leather, with a firm woodiness giving it structure. The balance and power of the flavours was impeccable and incredibly expressive.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 29 XO Exception. We're in rarefied territory here - still a deep amber. A crystalline aroma here - unlike anything else - it's reminiscent of tanghulu (Kyoho grapes coated in maltose candy), yellow raisins, sugar crystals and a bit of tree resin. On the palate it's full-bodied, super candied, heaps of the same black grapes in candy, with a soft and velvety texture, very focused intensity too, and a blast of freshness into the finish with more green grapes. On the finish is more honey and raisins, lacquered wood and grape gummies. It's crazy to think that this is close to a century old and has only gotten fresher and more vibrant. It's a total fruit and candy explosion, whilst maintaining the richness and pillowy soft finish.

Are We Ready For Experience 01?

 

 

And what do we have here!

As I've said countlessly, whenever you see a sample bottle appear (the sort with a placeholder label that usually just has the information about the contents in text, and a "Not For Sale") you know you're in for something awesome. This by the way has hands down the most gorgeous placeholder label, I should say!

And so with the Classiques tasted, we're down to the highlight of the afternoon - the Tesseron Experience 01!

The blend of eau-de-vie bottled in the Experience 01 was made by Guy Tesseron himself, as mentioned he's the second generation of the Tesseron house, and has been aged across three generations, made from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes harvested from Grande Champagne. For the Experience 01, a selection of eau-de-vie was married together by Guy, before being left to rest in two barrels for somewhere between 30 to 40 years, and in 2024 it was then decided that it would be bottled!

There's 1,000 bottles made, each coming in specially made wooden oak display gift box as well as a hand chiselled glass decanter - we've got Noe proudly showcasing it below (he's not included in the Experience 01 - we checked).

 

  

Tesseron Cognac Experience 01. This one's mahogany. On the nose, that classic Tesseron medley of freshness and richness of green grapes, yellow raisins and maltose. There's even a gentle and aromatic waft of herbal eucalyptus. On the palate, it's brighter and more mellow. The same fruits and honey, with a more youthful body that's so silky, seamless and soft. There's more of that minty herbal freshness. On the finish, we're getting soft but firm tannins. Notes of cedar and runny honey too. 

This was a lovely summation of the essence of Tesseron in my opinion - it's got that freshness and vibrance of fruit balanced out against the richness of honey. It's got depth and even throws in something we haven't quite seen yet - this herbal balmy note that adds a minty dimension to the story. I find the Experience 01 to be the most balanced of what I've tried today - it gives you some of everything that makes Tesseron stand out, with added depth and mellowness. 

For me, this has an understated elegance to it. It trades out punchiness for a velvety smoothness and mellowness that feels endless - it's like tracing a train of silk. It's plush and soft in texture, yet full in flavour, with a subtle sense of antiquity whilst somehow presenting a youthful energy in its body. If taken a few proofs higher, this would've been perfect. 

  

The Tesseron Signature Freshness With Age

By now it's abundantly clear that Tesseron's forte is in demonstrating its ability to create incredibly vibrant and fresh, rich and energetic Cognacs that have stupendous ageing potential - in fact, it seems like the longer they age, the fresher and more vibrant they get. It truly is a masterclass in Cognac showmanship, particularly when you consider that Tesseron does everything themselves, vineyard-to-bottle in fact! From acting as a grower, to distiller and producer, and then ageing and finally bottling and marketing their family's generational Cognacs. It truly is impressive how everything we tasted today is 100% the work of the Tesseron's, which displays clearly how much expertise they have at every step of the way with the intention of producing Cognacs in their signature profile.

To that end, I have to say that it was such a total pleasure to walk through the Classique Collection and the new Tesseron Experience 01, which conveys with such clarity the evolution of the Cognac with vintage and age, and how that all plays into the intentional effort of the Tesseron house in designing such a profile. With each Lot, there's a clear step up in freshness and vibrance, and it's quite mindblowing to me that even its entry level Lot 90 itself was already marks above most Cognacs available, and believe me everyone in the room let out oooh's of delight as we worked up to the veritable Lot 29 and Experience 01 - you think that was it, well Tesseron will show you they've got a number of cards up their sleeves.

 

My Take

My personal favourite was the Lot 52, which I felt was right down my alley of keeping that vibrance and freshness of bright fruitiness at the top, whilst at the same time balancing a deeper, richer earthiness at its base. That perfect combination of dualities was simply ridiculously enjoyable. My second pick would be the Lot 76, which I felt offered lots of incredibly decadent and rich dark notes of cacao, figs, raisins and baking spices that were so earthy. Special mention too the Experience 01, which I felt was very balanced in giving you almost a touch of everything, maintaining that youthful energetic quality with also a rather mellow and herbal richness.

Happy Cognac Day!

 

Kanpai!

  

 

@111hotpot