Grosperrin, everything for Cognac
There are jobs that are more intense than others and whose importance we only suspect too little. If that of a merchant first comes to mind when you mention Guilhem Grosperrin, then it is - high - time to twist some preconceived ideas and discover an unsuspected universe...
All the photographs in this article are signed Stéphane Charbeau and were generously provided by Maison Grosperrin.
Because behind the abrupt and somewhat cold term, behind negotiation and commerce, human parables also irise with such intensity that they allow history to resist time, to survive precisely where it was supposed to die out. Where it still goes out far too often.
None of his emissaries will admit it but as is often the case in stories, there are margoulins and honest people, the dead and the living. From the outside, the world of commerce is as cruel as anywhere else: through appropriation and in the name of holy growth, we buy family stories to mix them together, we assemble people as if they were the standard by transforming a thousand heirlooms into ingredients for supermarket hooch.
It's a profession like so many others, of course, but which can still find other resonances today... Guilhem Grosperrin is one of those men for whom history still has meaning. In a monopolized world, he decided to go against the grain and highlight all these stories for what they really are: unique stories, proof of a past that must absolutely survive as such, and for everything that Cognac represents. No offense to story eaters, we can also tell and share them. No offense to Hennesey (LVMH), Martell (Pernod Ricard) and Rémy Martin (Cointreau), we can still, and above all, respect them.
I admit, I still don't know how to understand this man's work. I even hope I never succeed. At the same time tracker, archivist, trader and confidant, taster, author and breeder, I know in any case that he respects the dead as much as the living.
On a Thursday, November 16, to be precise, we saw him. In his way of meeting all these families eager to sell a little of themselves (when you think about it), between a thousand smiles and undoubtedly as many liters of muted tears, on the incessant thread between suspicion and abandonment, it’s life that plays out in his daily life. They know him only too well and know that with him, at least, each fragment of their story will be respected for what it really is, a piece of themselves. A heritage. And since everything is a matter of time, he will sometimes have to wait eternity before he can offer them the echo. No possible cheating or mask can hide the truths and the wounds, and the trust and the time that these exchanges require is beyond comprehension... And since none of the parties will say or admit it, let it be said, at least here.
I spoke above of archivist, we could just as easily add maieutician to Guilhem's career palette, because another of his -multiple- missions consists of accompanying and offering a second life to eaux-de-vie which have been entrusted to him. From merchant to cellar master, there is only one step that some people do not/never take. Definitely apart, Guilhem takes pride in giving them all the time they need, because time, you see, must not stop. In infinite humility, he continues the conversations started with the producers and stretches them until each cognac is sufficiently mature, to continue them alone, right down to the confidential folds of our tasting glasses. History, respected, is thus liberated in the most beautiful - and noble - way possible. And which exists.
Don't forget in a world that has become amnesiac, what's more important after all? We can read here and there that Grosperrin is an exception in the Cognac landscape, where it should be the rule. Go figure. Before him, more than twenty years ago, his father had already understood this. Before everyone. Tired of seeing rare lots end up in giant assemblages, he traced the path for his son with a clear and assertive desire: to tell stories to “testify without artifice to the Charentais heritage”.
The taste for this human adventure can be found even in the Grosperrin-branded bottlings; you just have to read the labels to understand. You just have to look at them to feel the shivers wind their way to the glass: Axelle Grosperrin, the sister of Guilhem, the daughter of Jean, offers certain stories an unparalleled artistic setting, as if the vocation of this family was to honor (and celebrate) each encounter and transform the days from before to after...