We began the day in the visitors' center with croissants and muffins (carbohydrates before cognac is always a good idea). We were given an introduction and I was surprised to hear the actual numbers -- that Remy Martin, which began in 1724, produces 1.8 million cases per year. We were also told that it is the French government who sets the price of the eau de vie used to make cognac. It is exclusively Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne vineyards that are used in Remy products through 500 distillers.
On a walk through the cellars, the smells from the barrels permeated the room and we could still get a whiff as we headed into the tram (visitors can take a ride through the property) on to the blending room. They always say that you learn by doing and I certainly learned about cognac by trying to make my own. We were given three different eau de vies and had the option of deciding the proportions to use. I favored the stronger, sweeter one, which also happened to be the most expensive. (I didn't take it personally when Master Blender Pierrett Trichet informed me that the company couldn't afford to make it with that much of the good stuff!)
After blending came tasting and then we were off to Chateau Saint Martial, one of the family estates, for a lunch on the grounds. The weather was just perfect and it led to an incredible scene as we sipped cognac and enjoyed the countryside before we headed off to our final distillery -- Courvoisier.