A passionate winegrower and manager of the Maine Giraud estate, Mathieu Durand forges links between Cognac and literature. He recently created the “Ver(re)s de poésie” tourism experience under the “Explore Cognac” brand. Wine writer Romy Ducoulombier tells us about this journey through the poetic universe of Alfred de Vigny.
“Across the large disk of the moon the clouds
Ran like the smoke across a bonfire’s blaze,
And to the farthest limits of the sky. The woods grew dark.
We marched, in silence all, Upon the humid turf […]”
Extract from La Mort du Loup by Alfred de Vigny (1843) translated by Toru Dutt in A Sheaf Gleaned in French fields (1880)
Mathieu Durand is a winegrower who loves nothing more than taking visitors on an unforgettable adventure that awakens the senses. Under the new Explore Cognac brand, he has created a moving experience combining Cognac and the great poet Alfred de Vigny, who spent several years in the former “Logis du Maine Giraud” residence. The name he gave to this unique experience? “Ve(res) de poésie” (a pun on the French “vers”, poetry verses, and “verres”, glasses of poetry).
“This new experience adds an extra-cultural dimension to the estate’s existing tour and tasting, which invites visitors to discover the pot still, visit the Alfred de Vigny museum, and enjoy a tasting. From now on, small groups of visitors will have the chance to taste a 25-year-old Cognac in the building’s central tower – where Alfred de Vigny used to write – while listening to an audio recording of his poem La Mort du Loup.” The “Logis du Maine Giraud” did in fact belong to the great Romantic poet, Alfred de Vigny, a 19th century icon and friend of Victor Hugo.
Here, in the Cognac region’s Fins Bois production area, this writer, novelist, playwright and poet penned major French poetic works, including La Mort du Loup, La Bouteille à la Mer, Moïse ou Éloa and La Sœur des Anges, in the estate’s tower, which he used as a study. “He took solace in the calm of Le Maine Giraud to meditate, rest and write”, explains Mathieu Durand, whose family have owned the estate for four generations. The “Ve(res)de poésie” experience immerses visitors in an intimate exploration of the past and vibrantly traces the link between two heritages: literature and winemaking.
“To better understand the essence of Cognac”
“My great-grandfather purchased the estate in 1938, while my grandfather, keen to demonstrate the links between literature and viticulture, set the basis for what is now known as spirit tourism”, Mathieu Durand explains. “This pioneer quickly saw the interest in welcoming visitors to the estate to raise awareness of his profession. The funniest thing about this story is that Alfred de Vigny himself was a distiller…”
“Nowadays, ‘Explore Cognac’ opens up various gateways into the world of Cognac. As producers, we seek to showcase the human aspect of our activities. This strategy reflects our desire to highlight the real expertise that goes into spirit making”, Mathieu says. He first arrived at the family estate in 2006, later working alongside his father as of 2014. Nowadays, he manages 45 hectares of vines and has always endeavored to make Cognac more accessible.
“It’s essential. I am convinced that tourism can attract new audiences and help them better understand the essence of Cognac.” While 2020 had its up and downs, the first few visitors were given the opportunity to discover the “Ve(res) de Poésie”, which spurred an enthusiastic response. “I firmly believe in the need to vary approaches. People enjoy nothing more than taking a step back from their hectic daily lives!”
Domaine Le Maine Giraud
Le Maine Giraud 16250 Champagne-Vigny
+33 (0)5 45 64 04 49 – www.mainegiraud.com