Now is the moment that sets the scene for everything that LOUIS XIII will one day become.
Decades of ageing and blending depend on perfection at this point. Nothing less than the best will do, and the rules are minutely defined. The starting point is a light acid wine, fermented across a leisurely one-to-two-week period, low in alcohol because that is always the preferred basis for a superior cognac.
All pips were removed from the grapes at the point of pressing, to avoid any unwanted tannins in the future eau-de-vie.
It will take ten liters of this wine, at seven-to-ten-percent alcohol, to produce one liter of the seventy percent alcohol eau-de-vie that is the next objective.
Distillation must commence quickly, because the qualities in the wine are fragile – as soon as possible after harvest in November, and never later than the end of March.
The eaux-de-vie that go into LOUIS XIII are always distilled twice with the 'lees', a mixture of grape yeast and minute particles of the fruit.
From the heart of the second distillation, at 70 degrees alcohol comes the fiery young spirit that will maybe in one hundred years become LOUIS XIII. But only maybe.
The Cellar Master must now seek within the fire of the alcohol for those indications of excellence that only an expert nose can detect at this stage. And despite the best efforts of the distiller, the decision will most likely be negative.
Of some 1,000 samples that are submitted for the Cellar Master's approval, barely a dozen will be selected for this special destiny.